Baby Steps

Geoffrey is so close to independently walking.

He took his first steps more than a month ago, during one of his occupational therapy sessions. He moved towards me, arms outstretched, before he realized with a start that he was catapulting through empty space. He sat down on his tush and started bawling.

“He’ll be walking the next time I come,” Aubrey, his therapist said confidently, but he wasn’t. Over the last several weeks, he’s taken two to three steps at a time, tentative, before losing confidence and sinking down to the ground or falling into my arms. He cruises everywhere, moving from room to room simply by bracing himself against the wall for balance, or insists on walking with me, holding onto merely the tip of my finger.

But while I impatiently waited for both Jo Jo and Teddy to take their first steps, and to walk alone, with Geoffrey, I find I’m in no hurry. Part of it is I know he’ll most likely walk earlier than them anyway—Jo Jo didn’t take her first steps until she was 20 months, and even then didn’t really walk by herself until she was at least two years old, while Teddy wasn’t walking until he was fifteen months. But part of me isn’t ready to acknowledge what walking by himself will mean—that he’s truly no longer a baby but a full-fledged toddler who is slowly but surely toddling down a path that will take him further and further away from me.

He needs me so much now. Full-fledged separation anxiety has hit, and when I put him down for a minute he’s inconsolable. God forbid I should even leave the room—within minutes I hear him, tottering after me wailing for mama. He’s happiest nuzzled up against me, his head against my chest as he blissfully sucks on his fingers.

But while part of me rolls my eyes and silently groans because it means stopping everything on my agenda to sit and cuddle with my 13 month old, part of me secretly loves an excuse to just sit and luxuriate in the sweetness of my third child. He amazes me with everything he does, how he seems to navigate the world so effortlessly despite his visual impairment. “He’s not going to let his vision loss be any sort of disability,” Aubrey told me a couple weeks ago, watching him attempt to push a kitchen chair across the floor in an effort to navigate the room. “He’s so determined—he won’t let it stop him from doing all the things he wants to do.”

I know she’s right. I marvel at Geoffrey’s tenacity, at how he will set something in his sights and slowly but methodically go after it. If Teddy takes a toy from him, he doesn’t yell or cry—he simply grabs it back and refuses to let go. If I’m reading him books in his room, he often pushes them away and heads over to his toy bin, dumping out books until he finds the exact one he wants.

He’s truly amazing, my child with his mane of white gold hair and blue-grey eyes and porcelain skin that’s tinged with just a shade of ruddiness.

Tonight, while snuggling before bed, he pulled away and stared at me, beaming at me with a huge toothy grin before nestling up against me again. “Mama,” he said dreamily, his blonde eyelashes fluttering against his cheeks, and I wrapped my arms around him a little bit tighter.

It won’t always be this way. He won’t always want to sit and cuddle with his mama, and he won’t always look at me with that same gaze of absolute adoration.

So let him take his time with walking. Let him insist on being carried on my hip as I navigate around the house, or only agree to take steps if I’m holding onto his little hand.

He won’t be a baby much longer.