I’ve Spent Most Days Trying to Anticipate Her Every Move. But Not Today.
I’m perched on a faded park bench while a cover band plays Violent Femmes songs. Their music fills the hot and humid summer air as the sun beams down on my shoulders. In front of me, my daughter dances.
I watch her from my spot on the bench as she twirls — almost effortlessly — to the music. She spins, her arms outstretched and open to the world around her. A contagious smile spreads across her face. I smile too as she claps her hands and stomps her feet to her very own rhythm. She runs in circles and squeals with delight. I watch her feet pound against the hot cement, and as the music increases in speed, so does her running and her laughter.
In my mind, this moment — my daughter carefree and dancing — is not supposed to be happening. Not long after Ceci was born, we learned that she had hypotonia, and the broad range of delays and abilities associated with this diagnosis made it quite possible that she may never walk or run or dance.
But she is, and I feel as if I am in a dream.
I want to join her on that hot cement dance floor, just a hand’s touch away. I want to be “right there” to catch if her if she falls. I want to be the first person to kiss a scraped up knee and wipe away any tears. I want to prevent her from possibly getting hurt because for two years, that’s what I have done. For two years, that’s who I was: her protector and her comforter.
And when she finally walked, I was by her side for each step she took— to help her if she stumbled, to hold her if her muscles tired out before her mind did. There’s not a mile nor an inch that she has traveled where I haven’t been at her side, prepared to soften any blow that may come her way.
I have spent most of my time anxiously anticipating every move my daughter makes. Part of me is thrilled at the idea that she is making tremendous progress — that she is walking and running and dancing. Another part of me is consumed with worry that she will get hurt, so I never move too far away from her — until today.
I prayed for this moment, for her to be able to walk and run and dance. I told myself that when this day came, I would cherish each step she took. I promised myself that I would never complain, like some parents do, about how “once they start walking, they just won’t stop.” I was OK with that. I would follow her to the ends of the Earth, cheering her on each step of the way. I still will.
But I know my place today. I am supposed to be more than an arm’s reach away from her, unable to catch her if she falls this time. Today, I am not supposed to be right at her side. This dance is hers and hers alone — each twirl, each clap, each smile and each giggle is hers. My place is on the bench, and that’s OK.
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