I didn't realize that my toddler daughter's dance across the floor would also take me on a journey.
My at-the-time 18-month-old daughter and I attended a reading group at the library where the teacher asked all the moms and their babies to form a tight circle on the floor. I watched as the toddlers ran to sit on the laps of their mothers. My daughter stood a few feet away. I called out to her, and she strode toward me.
Then suddenly, and with great purpose she turned around, moved into the center of the circle and began to dance.
I watched my daughter spin around the floor in reckless abandon, her feet moving in a wild motion, to some music in her mind. The music first carried her toward the other mothers and children and then away; I felt her palpable joy. I worried that the other moms would resent my child's insistence on taking center stage, but I saw smiles on their faces instead of the disapproving frowns I feared. I marveled at the wonder that is my daughter as she moved. She acted so clearly in the moment. No worries, fears or thoughts for the future interfered with her actions.
Had I ever been that way, I wondered. If so, could I be like that again? Could I become as free and unfettered as a child with her whole life ahead of her, ready and willing to be the star of her own production?
I am her mother, but I already admire her fortitude, determination and intense desire to be recognized as if she were my equal. To me, she's a complete little person who is already so comfortable in her skin that she draws people in with that very confidence. Some might say that my husband and I have instilled in her a feeling that the world is a safe place.
Personally, I think she was born that way.
After 15 hours of induced hard labor with contractions coming every two minutes and my water breaking early into the labor, she was implacable, her heartbeat as strong as mine, not a waver throughout the ordeal. She knew what she wanted, and that was to be lifted out of my body via C-section, perfectly formed, head completely round. I imagined that as she began the journey that was her birth, she must have looked at the dark, winding road that led out of my body and thought, "Oh hell no! I'm not going out there! I'm too big; I won't fit." She was lifted out of me 8 pounds, 12 ounces, with a ravenous appetite, a thirst for life, with gypsy eyes -- dark, noticing, unfathomable, yet vulnerable too.
I had always considered myself to be like a kite, freer than everyone I knew, soaring above the ground powered by my own imagination. I was a writer and editor, with few responsibilities besides those of my career. Then I married and had my child. Over time, I have become as grounded as a great oak tree. Yet through my daughter I see my possibilities all over again. With purpose of mind and crystal clear intention she -- and I -- can do anything.
I fear for her, too. Will the vicissitudes of childhood knock her down, hurt her strong self-esteem? I don't want her to be bullied, but I don't want her to be a mean girl either. So what can I do? Childhood is short and there are life lessons ahead to be learned. What can any mother do, but wish for their child a road easier than her own and hope to pave her child's way along that road with the mortar of the mother's hard-earned wisdom?
So I watch her as she dances, carrying my heart in her every spin, foot flourish and smile.
Dance, my darling daughter, dance! And take me with you on your journey across the floor and through the years.
What mommy knows is that you're young only once, but if you have the right loving support, you can be young in spirit forever.
This story originally appeared on Musings on Motherhood and Midlife
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