We have a set of stairs that lead from the downstairs with the living room, dining and kitchen, to the upstairs which has the bedrooms and the bath and the study. We have a gate at the top of the stairs, for Anjali – that was installed when she was about a year old. (Now she is 21 months old). But we don’t have a gate at the bottom. Mostly because installing these gates seemed such a pain that I didn’t want to do one more.
So any time Anji approached the stairs, I leave whatever I was doing, to monitor her going up the steps. At the beginning, she was unsteady. But soon, she became a high-speed climber. Now, she likes to go all the way up and close the gate behind her. She is very particular about ‘close’!
The reason I say all of this is that, at the beginning, I had mixed feelings about not installing the gate downstairs. But now it has become one of the best things I did, or rather didn’t do. Whenever we have folks at home or I am too busy doing my own thing – cooking, cleaning etc – Anji will go to the stairs. Steps, she calls them. She knows I will drop whatever I am doing and follow. So she stands there, at the second or fourth step, and sure enough, I come. She then grins at me and says ‘sit’. So we sit on the steps, my daughter and I. and I listen. I know its her signal that she needs some one-on-one with mama.
Like most Moms, when I’m preoccupied, I want to listen, but only manage partially so, which is not really listening. But I find that on the steps, I always listen to my baby. I listen to her making sentences that I don’t always understand. I listen to ‘baby doing hop hop on the steps’. I listen to ‘baby sitting with mama on the steps’. I always listen fully. And I learn something about Anji, and something about me. Something tender and beautiful happens in those moments and my heart is touched.
I wish we all had signals like this when we just need some attention. But then come to think of it, we do. When we are tired, when we are anxious, when our mind is in a loop, when we are judgmental – all signals to stop. Go to those steps, sit and listen. Just like a Mom listens to her little one.
With love, S.