Maybe it’s a New England thing (it’s freakin’ cold here in winter). Maybe it’s a short girl thing (little legs just trying to keep up). Or maybe it’s a busy woman thing (endless to-do lists on the mind). But I like to walk fast (as fast as someone just over 5 feet can walk). I like to walk with purpose—to get somewhere, for exercise, because I’m late for class and I’m the teacher, darn it. The only time I slow my stride is for clothes shopping, and that really is more deal stalking than walking, so I don’t count it.
This summer, though, I had to relearn how to walk. Not the physical action of placing one foot in front of the other. That, thankfully, was not my problem. The reason I had to learn to walk again was because of who was at my side: my two year old son. It wasn’t that he was even shorter than I am. He keeps ups just fine when he wants to; he has super cat speed after all. Nope, the reason for my reeducation was that Little Man’s purposes for walking were so far removed from my own.
Toddlers don’t walk in straight lines. Their pace slows or quickens erratically. Sometimes they don’t walk at all—they crawl, roll, hop, or gallop.
When you have a destination in mind, and god forbid a timeline to stick to, this can be frustrating, even infuriating. But one of the beauties of being a teacher-mom in summer is that there was time spend with my little guy when there was no set destination and no deadline.
So we wandered a lot this summer. I allowed myself, sometimes forced myself to just let him lead. Walking his way, we squashed a lot of mushrooms, crawled through bushes momma barely fit through, stopped to chase bunnies, pick up worms, or splash in puddles. It was slow. It was often messy. It was almost always without purpose or direction.
And it was wonderful.
I think one of the greatest gifts children offer us is the chance to see the world anew. Little man doesn’t walk straight toward his destination because every little thing along the way is equally exciting. Bees enchant him. Sticks cry out to be picked up (lately with his mouth like a Puppy Dog Pal). Puddles are absolutely irresistible. After days on end of trailing by his side, I realized his walking does have purpose—it’s to explore and examine and learn about his world, a world that as an adult I had begun to take for granted. Not anymore.
Yes, I will still power-walk to the nearest heated building come the dead of January. And I will still speed-walk to class after staying too late at lunch chatting with coworkers. But when I’m with my son, and hopefully even when I’m not, I will make the most of his gift to me. I will try to walk as he walks—seeing, hearing, experiencing the world more fully, more intensely, and with the awe it deserves.