I love walks. I love walking the dogs. I love walking the dogs while pushing Larsen in the stroller.
Know what I don’t love? Walking three dogs while a toddler tries to walk next to me.
As I start out for a walk, I always have a mission – get some energy out of the dogs and my mind. My body relaxes, my thoughts clear. I can’t do that when I’m chasing a little hyena and being yanked around by three sniffing noses.
Larsen saunters here and there to grab a stick, “Look Mommy – this one is huge!” He stops to take a closer look at things that don’t catch my eye: “There’s a white butterfly on this yellow flower!” He pauses to point out a friend who races up the tree as we pass: “That squirrel is fast. I am fast too, Mommy!” He drifts in the middle of the road as he stares at planes overhead: “Look- is it Jay’s plane?”
It’s taken about eight months of daily walks to get him to a place where he doesn’t walk into someones front yard and pick up a frog sculpture, inspect it, and set it (i.e. throw it) back down in the original location while I politely remind him that is someone else’s property. He is only two after all.
It’s taken about eight months of practicing to have him stop his body when I asked him to while I loudly assert it is to keep him safe.
It’s taken about eight months of reminding him to listen and watch for cars, to move on to the grass, while I fight back my first instinct of screeching at him to get off the road.
Lots of times he would ignore me or be too involved at studying the bark of a tree to come on.
It would infuriate me. I would say, “You just can’t handle this right now!” and carry him home horizontal over my hip as I jerk the confused dogs. I’ve had to pick him up and put him back in the stroller kicking and screaming because he didn’t follow my instructions. Sometimes these instructions were there to keep him safe, sometimes they were just to get him moving in a pace acceptable to me. Not my finest hour.
I’ve had to let my determination to finish my mission subside as I kept asking him, “Please catch up! Catch up!” I’ve had to take him back to the house after only five minutes into our walk to show him boundaries are important, my heart sinking as the sliver of sunlight shrinks back behind the closing front door.
I’ve had to not walk some days because he wasn’t in a listening mood, and I did not hold a tempered disposition.
But more often than not lately he has stayed so close, dancing with my shadow, intent on enjoying the sunshine and birdsongs, understanding and responding to the limits for his safety. I’ve lifted my hands into prayer position over my heart grateful for these serene strolls and fascinated with a child’s mind.
He manages to be at awe with the simple. He manages to enjoy the walk with nothing else on his mind, even when his mother is loudly not cooperating.
As I think about these insanely tedious months, maybe taking a cue from Lars will help us both.
He may be learning how to walk safely on the road, but I’m the one discovering how to stop my body in reverence for time. I’m understanding how to stay safe from my irritation when the world doesn’t operate within my demands. I’m mastering the art of focus, trying to close out all my daily worries and to-do lists to enjoy what’s in front of me. I’m examining the little wonders of nature more intimately alongside my son.
I say it repeatedly: Lars is my guru. He’s showing me how to enjoy my walk. Yet still I fight it. It tries my patience when he inhibits my mission. When will I learn? When will I be able to choose grace instead of reactive frustration during those times that I can’t handle because things don’t go my way? How many more months will it take me to learn how to walk?