She was three and a half when I spied her heading for the front door out of the corner of my eye. She shuffled down the hall in a pair of my black heels intently watching her feet. On one side, her tiny fingers were outstretched to the wall for balance. On the other, she had slung her diaper bag over her shoulder. It skipped and bounced across the carpet with each awkward step. I was curious, so I let her go. When she reached the stairs, she carefully grabbed the railing and slowly eased her foot down the way a little kid does when each step is nearly the height of one leg. I headed to the top of the stairs and sat down, my eyes now level with hers. “Hey, whatcha doing with your diaper bag? You can’t be running away from home already.” I chuckled at the thought. She looked at me quizzically and proclaimed, “It’s my beefcase. I got a meeting.” After a short moment of cringing (I had 4 beefcases and many more meetings), I laughed and scooped her up. She was squirming because, after all, she had places to be and I was holding her back. Like every other three-year-old though, she was easy to distract and redirect. I was the master of that. I asked about her meeting and she went into great and emphatic detail about the many important things that had to be done. I made a note to remember that she was a sponge- soaking everything up that she saw or heard.
It took me back to my own childhood. I loved to play in my dad’s office. He had fascinating pieces of paper and so many books. Even before I could read, I would pretend to fill out the forms and make notes. I would pretend to read the textbooks. The pictures filled my imagination – exotic animals, colorful maps, geometric shapes, and paintings. I particularly liked the Spanish books. I wanted so badly to be able to read so I could read in Spanish. Back then, I had no idea what he actually did, but it seemed so important and I wanted to be just like him.
That is the natural course of things. You look up at the significant adults in your life. You mimic what you see and hear. You play house and school and super heroes. Then you grow up and, as you do, you test the waters of individuality and independence. You discover your own passion and that puts you on the path that will be your life. As a parent, even though I want to scoop her up in a big hug and distract her, I know that it is nearly time. It is nearly time to let her go out that door. When that time comes, we will both be ready. After all, she has places to be and I’m not holding her back.