I watched him steady himself as he stood from the ground, balancing just for a second, arms high at his side, like a t-rex, before plopping on his back side. I’m thankful for those cloth diapers today, with their super cushy bottoms. I bet he is too. He must be because he doesn’t seem phased at all by the stumble. He leans in for it again, all fours, then just feet, hands hovered over his toes until he can use that little bitty core belly and hoist himself back up. This time he holds his balance for a just a little bit longer, long enough to look at me and grin. I got this, I can see him thinking.
Oh that grin. That precious, confidant, effortless grin. Sometimes, when paired with the act of just successfully dumping a plate of cottage cheese off the side of his high chair, sometimes it’s not so precious. But today, in the “I’m doing something here are you catching how awesome this is” kind of way, it’s contagious. His confidence is contagious.
He’s 14 months at this age. He should be walking by now. But I’m not worried (Spoiler alert he is very much indeed walking now at 18 months, running in fact. But that is beside the point.) I’m not worried because I can see his confidence and his drive. I know he will walk one day, not because he is my second child and not because I have studied physical development and not because all the books say he will. But because I just believe in the amazing ability for our bodies and minds to keep growing and changing and reaching those goals that we set for ourselves. It’s a beautiful thing how a tiny infant that was once curled up so snug in my belly, can with time and practice and brain growth and encouragement be a walking little person. It’s science, but it’s also a pretty fantastic miracle.
And because of this science and miracle and confident grin of my motivated little guy, I’m not worried that he will get there. He will walk. He will run, in fact. And his body will carry him to where he needs to go, one tiny boost off the ground at a time.
So why don’t I have the same confidence in myself?
Why don’t I see my goals and my dreams as possible achievements?
Why do I have doubt, or fear, or impatience?
“When I grow up I will be a dancer and a doctor and a mommy.” Such confidence in that one too. All the big dreams we’ve told her she can dream she does. She has decided she wants to be all of the things. And I have no doubt she will.
But yesterday she wanted to be something different. A teacher. Or a writer. Or a princess. Or a bus driver. Or an astronaut (although she doesn’t want to go to the moon because you can’t breathe on the moon.) Or the President of the United States (actually she has told me specifically she does not want to do that because it doesn’t look like fun, which I can’t argue with but I can still dream for her, and brainwash.)
So when one day she changes her mind again, maybe in high school, or in college, or when she is raising her family, or when she is an empty nester, or when her job just doesn’t feel right, does it mean that she didn’t fulfill her dream? That maybe somehow she was doing it wrong all along?
No of course not, I tell the little girl now who keeps changing her mind, and the grown up woman down the road who calls me for advice, and also the woman inside me who is still wondering about her own goals and dreams.
You see, having goals to pursue is not nearly as scientific or even miraculous as the little child learning to walk. And it’s not as simple as deciding what you want to be when you grow up. But there are lessons we can learn from our little ones that just might make the dreaming easier.
Have faith that you can do it. Believe in the process not just the end goal. Just as a baby has to learn to roll before they can sit up before they can stand up before they can take steps, each small inch forward in a goal is to be celebrated. Each new tiny little part of the goal is worthy of grinning ear to ear. And it is especially essential to not let the falls on our back sides to give us reason to give up, to lose patience, to doubt. You can be frustrated but you must hold on to the confidence.
And if your goals change, if you are certain one day and then do a complete 180, you are not a flip flopper. You are just chasing your dreams. Be excited for that. Be excited to find out what you will be when you grow up. And own it proudly, even when it changes. Because if we can tell our little girls and boys that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, surely we have to want that for ourselves too. Surely there is room for our goals and dreams to change and shift and show us something new.
Tomorrow morning on the first day of school, we will take a picture of a little four year old standing bravely with her backpack on her back and a sign in one hand that tells us how big but also how so very small she is. Her brother will want to stand there too, aware of the excitement but just because he loves to be a part of something, and he will one day too. Because we know they grow up. They go to school. They learn to be brave and to be kind and to share and to do math and to write stories and to keep adding to the compartments in their brain. Because that is what they do. It's science. And we do too. If we let ourselves. If we trust the process. If we believe. If we keep dreaming, we'll grow up too.
So with the motivation of a new school year, I’m going to conquer the world with the same nerv-icited emotions as this four year old and every other little learner and teacher alike.
Happy New School Year to One and All! (Stay tuned for my personal goal sharing soon!)