We Stand and Fall

2015-02-26 07.33.54She falls. She stands and she falls. She pulls herself up on the coffee table and hits her chin on the way back down. She cries.

If I do it for her—helping her down every time—she will never learn. She has to stand and fall.

She has to practice.

And it is oh-so-painful to watch. I want to do it for her. I want to show her once and have her imitate me and master it. But learning her body—where she ends and the world begins—is her job right now. Thirteen months old, and she has a job. The job of growing, of being, of discovering, of pointing and learning the names of things. Of babbling the consonants. Of standing and falling.

Day after day I help her find her way down, the length of her arms, the distance between her bum and the floor.

Day after day she lifts her arms and squeezes her hands, begging for cuddles. My arms are her safe place; she rests and then wiggles out for more exploring.

One day she won’t need me anymore.

When she sleeps, I plug away on my computer, creating lesson plans, grading papers, and my words become a measuring stick for my students. “Here is how far your language has to go,” my words say. “Here is the distance between you and the world.” One day they shouldn’t need me anymore either.

A lesson plan succeeds or fails, and I find my own distances. I have been “walking” as a teacher for a while now, and the process of refining my standing is subtler.

But writing, writing is another story. I stand and fall. Stand and fall. Stand and fall. My book-in-progress finds its limits, starts from scratch, rebuilds stronger muscles.

I have to learn my limits. Learn where my work as an instructor begins and ends. Learn where my work as a writer, as a tutor, as a friend, as a mother begins and ends. Learn where, or mostly when, to go for my own time out to rest. Learn how to stand and how to sit.

These days, I can continue to write because she is standing. I channel my desire for her to learn how to stand and sit without my help into my desire to keep writing. Like her, I want to quit. But I won’t let either of us quit. We will eventually learn to walk.

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