Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Philosophy Lessons from a 13-Month-Old

So among Chloe's favorite things to do these days are learn how to crawl up the stairs and attempt to build block towers.

The stair thing, well, it's a catch-22. I want her to know how to do it, but then again I don't really want her climbing. We won't even talk about the day I was really sick and suddenly heard Ethan upstairs with her. Apparently when I'd zoned out he'd sat at the top and coaxed her up the stairs. "See? She can do it!" he announced proudly, while I nearly passed out thinking about what could have happened.

So I allow her to climb the stairs sometimes, always right behind her, to get more practice in case we have one of these "incidents" at another point. And she'll start out eagerly and then push herself to keep going. Sometimes she stops in the middle and looks around as if she's thinking, "Wow. I'm kind of getting up high." And then she plods on. The funny thing? She always stops at the second to the last step. And she starts to cry. She'll try to climb but something stops her. The last step looks different...or maybe it's that there's not as much to hold on to.

I watched her hang back when she had the World of Upstairs just inches away, and wondered how often we all do that. How many times do we get so close to making a change, to taking a risk, to doing what we've always told ourselves we would do, and something stops us? Sometimes we've even done the most difficult part of the journey. But something about taking that last step, something about the reality of it all overwhelms us, and we stay in the Land of In-Between.

As for blocks, Chloe's not been the type to enjoy knocking them down that much. Both Anna and Ethan used to do this gleefully, whereas I get the sense she doesn't really like wrecking things. She will almost politely knock towers over, but in the last week or so Chloe has decided she wants to build them. And so she's earnestly grabbed some of the oodles of colored wooden blocks we have lying around, and she gets the second block into position -- and then, nine times out of 10, she runs into a little snag.

"Chloe, you have to learn how to let the block go," I heard myself saying, and then thought, Who knew? You don't think about all of the steps that go into building something -- even an object as simple as a tower of a few blocks. And you can have the materials, you can have the desire and intent, you can get them into the right position...but you also have to open your pudgy little fist and let the block go.

Chloe kept trying to do this. She'd get the block in place and start to let go but at the last minute snatch it back. Then move it over. Then push it to the floor. Or take just long enough to let go that everything lost its balance and the tower was no more. A few times she'd get it -- then sometimes she'd go right away and grab the block back.

Sometimes we think we have to have our hands into everything, when really the best thing we can do is open them up wide and step back. Sometimes we can be our own worst enemy. Sometimes we can have the best intentions but need help with the execution. And sometimes we've done everything we were supposed to do -- and the worst option is to go grab it all back and upset the natural order of things.

Who knew, indeed. Sometimes the best way to complete something is to let go of it.

1 comment:

Deenie said...

Awesome piece :-)