by Eilin Teeling  AMMM                           Ireland                                          18.01.2024

My baby granddaughter has just learned to walk, and I’m fascinated.  Most of us learn this vital life skill and yet does anyone remember learning to walk as a baby?  Once we learn, we will walk every day of our lives until our legs grow too old or we suffer a serious accident or illness.  She won’t remember learning to walk either but maybe some distant memory of being encouraged, being praised, and feeling pleased with her efforts will remain with her.

I’m fascinated with the process.  How did she know what to do?  For two or three months she progressed from standing, to taking a couple of steps, to walking on her own.  Over and over again, she stood up, fell, picked herself up, stood for a few seconds, then fell again.  She became steadier and was able to stand holding on to the sofa with one hand but falling if she let go.  Slowly, she took one step alongside the sofa, then falling, taking two steps, then falling, until she was able to walk along the full length of the sofa without falling.

Her parents, our daughter and her husband, and us grandparents cheered with love, pride and delight when she walked a few steps without holding on to anything.  She was 16 months old when she mastered this skill at her own pace.  What a joy!

While watching her, it struck me how free she seemed to be from the negative thoughts that us adults are so good at.  Imagine an adult undergoing the same process: “I’m no good at this”, “look at the other babies in creche, they learned to walk sooner than me”, “this is ridiculous, all this falling on my bottom and getting up again, I’ll stick with crawling.”

How often do we adults give up our goals because we feel discouraged, or we failed?  Do we have so many negative thoughts that we don’t even try?  Is this what Jesus meant when He said “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” Matt 18:2-4.

My baby granddaughter just kept going until she succeeded.  She didn’t add in complications such as negative thoughts, or worry about self-image.  She expressed delight and wonder but then just got on with playing.  Can we too approach our daily tasks with child-like hearts that are open to imagination, surprise and wonder?

I’m appreciative of the wonderful home that her parents have given her, with space, warmth, and security.  I pray for those babies who may never be able to learn to walk, for those babies with families stuck in unsuitable accommodation, in places of war, or whose parents who are unable to provide the smiles of encouragement due to the stress of just trying to survive.  May we be able to love and take care of all our babies.