Hold My Hand
Every morning it was my turn for daycare drop off, we’d pull up in the lot, I’d unbuckle her car seat, and gather her stuff. When it was time to get out of the car, the Doodle would demand to be picked up. I swooped her out of the back of the car up into my arms, finally resting with her legs around my waist. I’d juggle the squirmy toddler jutted on one hip with a handful of loose stuff – sippy cup, clothes and a toy or two – and only if I was thoughtfully lucky I would have remembered to shove all of these extras into a bag.
We’d walk into daycare at a quick pace and I’d observe all of the other parents patiently shuffling with their charges. Their kids were walking, picking up sticks, rocks or snow, and taking their time transitioning from the care of their parents to the care of their workers.
It’s not that we were rushing through our last minutes together, it’s because she needed to be close. She needed her mommy or her mama to care for her in the way that babies need their mommies. She spent all day being fiercely independent and needed to be loved and held close in our arms when she was in our care.
Seasons changed. Fall turned to winter, winter turned to spring, and spring turned to summer. Our toddler transitioned to the preschool room and the morning routine didn’t deviate.
“Up, up, up, Mommy!” “Pick me up please.” “I can’t walk.” “I don’t know how to walk.” The Doodle just refused to walk from the house to the car or from daycare to the car. Pretty much she wouldn’t walk on her ownsome with us at any time.
There were times I got frustrated. This was a kid who started walking at 11 months. I had all of the stuff she asked me to carry and it was getting strewn around the parking lot. I didn’t have arms big enough for her and all her worldly possessions. I wanted her to just be a little more like the other kids her age.
But then I didn’t. I got over myself and relished that she wanted to be nurtured in this way. My arms and back remained strong as I had to lug this 30 lb kid to and fro from place to place every single day. For short distances, I had my arms, and for long distances, I had the carrier.
But in my arms, she could look me right in the eyes, and talk to me. We’d have a hushed conversation of peers. She could see the world from my vantage point. She’d grab my face in her hands and earnestly tell me that she loved me. She’d plant an open-mouthed kiss somewhere on my cheek.
I’m not sure when the change happened. It wasn’t gradual, it was sudden. One day, she just asked for my hand and we walked in to daycare together. It happened the next day, and the next day again, and then the day after that. That’s how change happens with her.
“Mommy, hold my hand.” Four simple words that altered a two-year long routine. A request that got repeated for a number of days. A new pattern emerged.
I followed her lead and in an instant she decided to grow up.
For most, that change wouldn’t be monumental. But it was for me. It denoted the change in my mind from being the mother of a toddler to being the mother of a young kid. I have a preschooler. My baby is nearly three.
Not pushing my child to walk was the first time I consciously acknowledged that I didn’t need to push her to do something. It was how I realized she would come into her own in her own time. Picking her up and carrying her when she asked was my way of nurturing her inner child, and my way of letting her be a baby for as long as she needed to be. It was my way of letting her grow up on her own terms.
Now when it’s my turn to drop her off at daycare, I unbuckle the belt, put on her winter coat and lift her out of the car. She waits beside me while I grab all of her stuff, which still never seems to get into a bag, with her tiny hand stretched above her head in the cold air.
“Hold my hand, Mommy,” she says patiently. She’s waiting for me. She’s waiting for my big hand to wrap around hers, and I’m waiting to feel her small warm palm press into mine as her fingers stretch around mine.
Then we walk, we shuffle, slowly and patiently, to the front doors of daycare as we look at the parents scurrying about around us.