Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mastering the Stairs

Yesterday, we had a little BBQ at the house. It was the most beautiful day. The sun was shining, the weather was warm. We set up the kiddie pool on the deck for my little niece, Gabriella, and filled it with water. She sat in it splashing and laughing for a good portion of the afternoon.  Eventually, the air grew cool and we emptied the pool and that was that. Gabriella didn't really mind. There were plenty of other things for her to do. She spent the rest of the day exploring the yard.

Gabriella is two years old and is enjoying her independence. She is able to walk about and because our yard is completely fenced in and very safe, she has the freedom to push her little doll stroller all over the lawn. We have a large deck with five steps leading out on to the lawn. There is no other way. One must use the stairs to enjoy the lush, green grass and the pretty flower gardens below.

Gabriella is a great communicater. She talks in small sentences but the majority of her requests are made by facial expressions and hand gestures. Usually, she just stands on the deck near the stairs, looks at me, waves her little hand and gently says "Ti-Ti". I am Ti-Ti and I know this is Gabriella's way of telling me to take her hand and lead her down the stairs. Over and over we did this. She just loved walking up and down those steps, her little hand in mine.

Eventually, my niece grew more and more secure. She decided that she no longer needed to hold my hand. She was going to attempt it alone. She held on to the railing and carefully walked down each step. Then she turned around and walked back up them again. I stood watch, heartily applauding each time she did this. She was so proud of herself.

And then.......she lost her footing and fell. 

 I rescued her and held her in my arms as she cried. She had scrapped her little hand and I kissed it for her and told her that was enough stairs for the day. She seemed to be agreeable to this and sat on my lap at the table for a long time, happily enjoying cookies and milk. After awhile, she climbed off my lap and played with her toys on the deck. Then, before I knew it, there she was, attempting to master those stairs again. 

I offered my hand to help her, but she refused. She wanted to hold onto the railing and do it herself.  Again, I stood there watching her, ready to catch her if she fell.  Each time she did this, she became more confident and decided she wanted to walk up and down the middle of the stairs without holding onto to anything.  

My precious little niece has been walking for less than a year. She is still not completely stable on her feet. She loses her balance and falls every once in awhile because she is not an experience walker. Sometimes, she looks like a drunken sailor. This is part of being a child. Children should be free to explore and overcome obstacles like stairs, but under careful watch and supervision of an older person. I did not feel confident in her ability to walk up and down my deck steps without holding on to something. I was afraid she would fall again and perhaps suffer more than a tiny scrape on her hand the next time. So I firmly told her, unless she clutched my hand or the railing- NO MORE STAIRS.

She screamed and cried. I made a little blockade out of chaise lounges and tables so she no longer access to the steps. This just added to her frustration as she tried to manuever over, under and around. After several unsucessful attempts, she threw herself down on the deck and threw a full-blown temper tantrum.  I ignored her. Eventually, she wore herself out and we went inside for the rest of the evening.

Later on, as I sat reflecting on the beautiful day spent with people I love, I thought of Gabriella.  I was amazed at her drive and her persistence. She had it in her mind that she was going to master those stairs, no matter what. The fact that she had fallen, did not frighten her in the least. Yes, it stopped her for a short time but the desire to explore the world beyond the steps was stronger than the little bit of pain she might have to experience trying to get there. In her little two-year old mind, she knew she would need to become an expert at walking up and down steps, by herself. This is the only way she can truly be free. If she falls a few times, so what? It will be worth it.

I am not saying that we should allow small children to run all over without supervision. It is our job to stear them away from danger. It's quite possible that another child, after hurting themselves, would have given up and been completely terrified to attempt the stairs again for a very long time. But not Gabriella!  She has a spirit of adventure and she wants to go places and do things. A little slip down the steps and a scrape on her hand is not about to stop her from getting where she wants to go.

I fell in love with this child all over again yesterday. I was amazed at her determination. I learned a lesson:

We all must master the stairs.

Every single person learns to walk up and down a flight of stairs as a child. It is a process of trial and error. First they climb a few steps, firmly clutching the hand of a more experienced master.  Later on, they try it alone while holding on to some kind of railing or banister. Over time they conquer the stairs completely unassisted. Some children fall. Some don't.  Most children never give up because the desire for independence and growth is stronger than the fear of falling. Confidence begins to build. Belief in their own stabilty and ability takes over. Eventually, they are able to run up and down a flight of stairs, without thinking, without fear, and without falling.  

Such is life. Before us is flight of stairs we must learn to master.  It's the only way to achieve what is above, below and beyond. 

The staircase leads to a better life,  hopes, dreams, the promise of joy, happiness, peace and freedom.

Don't give up. Don't let any one stop you. Trust those who are willing to extend a hand to help you until you know you can do it alone. Never allow anyone to hold on for too long, however. You must get the point where you let go and trust in your own ability. The desire to move ahead must be stronger than the fear of staying in the same place. If you fall or trip up and down a few steps, so what? Brush yourself and try again and keep going until you master the stairs......

And this is my Daily Cyn.......

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