Thursday, September 05, 2013

Holding Hands

My daughter started walking on her own last Friday. There was a sneak attack a couple days earlier when she thought someone was holding her hand, but they weren't and she took four steps on her own - but we're not counting that. It doesn't seem fair.

I'm amazed how quickly she's progressing. From three steps and a lean into our arms to walking long distances over mildly uneven terrain in shoes less than a week later. I suppose we do need a sharp learning curve since the very physics of balance and bipedal motion is pretty complicated. I don't think we really give ourselves enough credit for walking most of our lives while falling over only infrequently.

My daughter is still pretty early in her walking life, though. She walks much quicker and more securely with a hand to hold. She'll practically run if you hold her hand. I really like walking, holding her hand; it makes me feel like we're going somewhere together, rather than me taking her places.

Pretty soon she'll be going most places all on her own. I'm already dreading it. I saw a friend, yesterday, who jut returned from taking his oldest child to college. I asked how it was. He said, "Tough. The house feels pretty empty these days." At another point in my life I would have expected more - a longer explanation. I have a daughter now, all I needed was the look in his eye. I knew.

We're preparing our daughter to walk on her own. Independence is important - especially when it comes to moving from one place to another. We live in a world that practically worships independence, self-sufficiency. There's something in us that feels sorry for people waiting at the bus stop - as if they're lacking something being so dependent on others for transportation.

People need to discover independence. It's an important developmental step, learning to do things on our own - my daughter's not yet 18 months old, but she hates eating anything she can't feed to herself. There's more to come.

People need to discover the importance and power of independence, but the greatest lesson we can and should learn from our experiments in self-sufficiency is just how fleeting and unrealistic they are. We need each other. We know that deep down inside, yet our society and culture tells us to let go, cut the cord, separate.

This is not to downplay the importance of our individuality, but just to recognize that independence, like dependence, is just a developmental stage. Interdependence is where we're created to be.

We're born selfish, although we don't know it. At some point we realize the things we do impact the people around us (and vice versa). We begin to differentiate. We discover our individuality and work on independence. It seems like a lot of us stagnate there. We exist in this realm where no one can tell us what to do and we're willing to do some outrageous things just to prove no one can tell us what to do. Our society doesn't help us any there; it just cheers us on.

We forget - or perhaps we never discover - that our lives aren't meant to be lived independently. We need each other. We need people to tell us what to do from time to time. Living an independent life is downright exhausting. It'll kill us (and if we're really good at being independent, no one will care)!

My daughter is learning to walk on her own. She's only going to get better at it. Still, I can't envision a time when I'll refuse to hold her hand. She'll refuse to hold mine - it'll happen a lot - but, of course, that's part of growing into our independence. If God grants enough grace, perhaps we'll have instilled the proper love and understanding in our daughter that she'll emerge from that independence and be willing to hold our hands again.

After all, if we're going on the same journey, we might as well go together.

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