I am sitting at the base of my stairs; my newly 9 month old is on the 3rd step and climbing higher. Every couple of steps his foot slides backwards and every bone in my body lurches towards him in hopes of saving him from a devastating fall. I want to prevent his tears, but I know that to be his teacher, I must be a present and supporting figure on HIS journey. And so, I once again bite my tongue and let him climb, waiting and watching in silent praise. By the last few steps, he has achieved an easy and smooth pace with very little slips. He is already so different from the baby I knew at the first step. He is brave, confident, fluid. He trusts his body. He trusts the learning process.
I think back on the times of my youth when I was ‘saved’ from a possibly negative experience, or pushed into an activity where I was told I would thrive, even though I expressed my disinterest. I wonder: did I know myself better when I was a baby than I do now? What anxieties do I have now that I learned from someone trying to protect or save me?
I am learning from my baby, Julian, how autonomy really manifests itself. I am an artist, inspired by my 9-month-old muse in his natural state. I am learning to be a listener from his communication skills. He is learning to listen from mine. We are two people learning to coexist, with a muted sense of verbal skills and our intuition and hearts as guides. This is parenting.
Previously, I felt that raising a child would be him adhering to my rules. I would be responsible now for the health and happiness of another human. He NEEDS me. And yet, every day is another lesson in how much he does not need me. Very few years of his life will be spent in my care, under my roof, following my rules. Then he will be on his own, and I will have to trust that I did everything ‘right’: That he is a functioning adult, capable of making his own decisions, saying ‘no’ when his gut tells him so, taking calculated risks, and learning how to take comfort in a community that loves him.
So, I hold back, I wait and watch. I learn who he is, what is limits are, and I graciously (and sometimes sternly) offer my input when he asks with his sweet eyes,
“Mom, can I put my finger in this electrical socket?”
“F, no. But thanks for checking in.”
And I go find the outlet cover so we can have the electrical safety conversation when he shows me that he has a better scientific grasp on the concept of electricity. He is still a baby, after all.
The muse may inspire, but the artist paints the picture. We are that for each other. Artists and Muses. Children and Parents. Connected, coexisting humans.