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It finally happened. Lev took his first step. Two of them actually. Just a quick short stab forward with the right foot followed by a left, and then he plopped to the ground. I was at my parents’ house so my mother witnessed it, and my brother is in town for the holidays, so he saw it too, as did my nephew, who began yelling, “He walked!” Then all hell broke loose, and we all began whooping and dancing the Horah and singing in Hebrew. Lev started clapping which only made us go more insane.
As with many firsts in the life of a baby, Lev’s first 2 steps were both momentous and mundane. He walks kind of like 50 Cent dances: just that same old 2-step. Nothing more is needed, each foot jutting out a few centimeters, leaving stability and finding it again as fast as possible. His tiny shoes moved forward like a lizard darting between rocks, quickly so as not to be eaten by a predatory bird.
But as much as we all whooped and hollered, the fact is a baby’s first steps are the kind of event that means a lot to the parents, a little to the rest of the immediate family, and absolutely nothing to the rest of the world.
When you see your child take his first steps, you personally will hear “The Flight of the Valkyries” and feel like you have just witnessed a moon landing. Nobody else in the world cares. And why should they? A deer walks a few hours after being born. So your kid took over a year to learn to be as smart as a deer.
But something crucial has happened. You have crossed the rubicon because now your kid can cross the living room. Remember those painfully adorable booties you used to put on his tiny infant feet? Those weren’t made for walking. But his feet are. And now he’s mobile and there’s no turning back. The chase has begun.
Nobody else in the world cares. And why should they? A deer walks a few hours after being born.
Once the baby learns to walk, it’s a non-stop marathon. You have to sprint approximately 10 miles a day in tiny increments chasing your most beloved creation who lacks any common sense, has bottomless reservoirs of energy, and terrific evasive maneuvers.
But that day hasn’t quite arrived. It’s not that those first steps were a fluke, it’s just that right now Lev doesn’t really know what this strange new power means. Soon he will realize those first steps were a Great Leap Forward — not for mankind but just for him personally. But right now, I still have a most precious gift: a few more days until Lev realizes the world is his.
He is still in the Garden of Eden, innocent and unaware that sneakers were made for sneaking. That yes he can get from here to there. And that he doesn’t have to be in Rome to do as the Romans do. He can roam right here at home.
What will we do then? Childproof this apartment — which, now that you mention it, is full of sharp wooden ages and my weird sword collection — and somehow make sure he walks a straight line and never runs into trouble?
No. Lev is a free bird. We must let him spread his wingtips and fly. Actually, they’re loafers but the point is not what’s on the sole of his feet but what makes his soul feel complete. And that’s walking, baby. This kid doesn’t need a stroller, he just wants to stroll. For the moment, somehow, thankfully those 2 little steps were enough.
He’s being gentle, ambling into the age of ambulation, and easing us into the day when he’s gonna ease on down the road for good.
Dimitri Ehrlich is a multi-platinum selling songwriter and the author of 2 books. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin, and Interview Magazine, where he served as music editor for many years.