Most toddlers, when you take them to a wide open area like a park or a beach, will run and run for a few yards, and then turn back to look at you. Then they will laugh and run very quickly back to you. It's like they have an invisible rubber band attached to them that runs between them and you (mommy/daddy). If they run too far, the rubber band pulls them back, fast.
Lily came home with us at 15 months. She had just learned to walk, and for the first couple of weeks she still had that step-step-stumble-fall walk of a young toddler. As soon as she got steady on her feet though, she took off.
We took her to wide open places and she ran and ran and ran. It was clear, her rubber band was broken. 12 months in a care center without a mommy or daddy to run back to will do that.
Sometimes I let her run away from me, just to test and see how far she would go. Would she ever turn around?
She never did. She just kept going. My own heart, my own aching rubber band, would snap, and I would chase after her and catch her up. But it was clear, she would have kept on going.
Lily, you may have noticed, is something of a dare devil. If there is a sharp object within reach, she is picking it up (and when she was younger, putting it in her mouth. Let's see if this steak knife from the dishwasher mommy is unloading is really clean.) If there is a body of water to jump in, she jumps. If there is a tall tree or hill or large rock, she is climbing it. If there is a cliff or porch railing or window ledge, she is leaning over it. If there is a set of wheels to ride, she is on it. Running into traffic? That's so fun! Disappearing into crowds? Loves it! I have been paged over the YMCA loudspeaker to come get a (pantsless) child from the bouncy house she refuses to leave. I have grabbed her from the jaws of death (oncoming cars and trucks) three times.
This child has taken years off my life. YEARS.
And yet, she is still alive. Steak knife in the mouth at 16 months? Not a scratch.
Diving into a busy street? Fine.
Tumbling off of a high rock? Not a bruise.
She really does have a guardian angel.
A couple of days ago we took the kids to a huge beach near us. Waves! Sand! They were thrilled, and the waves were so much fun they didn't notice the water was like ice.
At this beach there is a large rocky island that you can walk out to at low tide. We all started towards it, but Daniel got distracted by the waves and we stopped to let him jump for awhile. Lily, though, wanted to get to the top of that island. She took off. I stood at the bottom of the slope, watching her, conducting the test again. Just how far and how high will she climb before she turns around? Has her rubber band, after 3 years with us, been stitched together at all?
She climbed and climbed and climbed without a glance back. Soon, she was out of sight. I had a vision of the waves crashing on the rocky ledge I knew was on the other side of the island. I started climbing after her.
Lily, as an adult, will be able to climb so high. She is so fearless, so ready to take on the world. Perhaps by then, we will have stitched together enough of the rubber band that she will not leave us behind.