I am captivated by the pelicans who congregate in groups, fly in an arrow head pattern over the sea, broad wingspans alternatively flapping and soaring, necks stretched long causing the pouch for fish to disappear, and then as if this sight is not feast enough for me, they swoop low over the water hovering inches above the rolling surface and grow smaller and smaller the further they fly. How do they do that? Are they fishing or just playing? Is it fun? It must be.
With my feet in the sand, and the sea before me, the shadow of a soaring pelican crosses over me, and I hold my breath. Kira stops, watches them, points, and looks to me for an answer. Wassat? Every winged creature is a duck to her, so she begins to squeak a duck sound which comes out exactly like Donald Duck. And I just feel so happy to be right in this moment.
The sand under her feet is a new sensation. This is a floor that moves, comes apart, sticks to her, feels both cold and hot, soft and hard. She cannot make sense of it. She touches it with her finger, looks at the sticky mess on her hand and shakes it to get free from pieces of this new floor. Hand stretched wide, a worried look on her face, she looks at me, Do something! I wait. I won’t interfere with her new experience, I don’t want her to think there is something amiss. She’s a finger sucker, so when the instinct strikes her to insert her finger into her mouth, quickly she removes it, her tongue comes out with bits of sand. She’s tasting the salt and grit of the beach.
She looks out again to the water that comes in waves. There’s no reference for a motion like this in her sense of the world. When the waves cover the new floor she stands on her plump dark feet begin to sink and soon they are buried. She marches out and turns to look at where she just stood. What is this kind of floor? She clutches my finger for security and stability, but soon she wants to test her own abilities and balance, but not too far from me. She lets go. She watches the foam roll towards her and she braces herself with a little squat and her arms stretched out wide to balance, and she watches the water make her feet disappear, feels the cold, the gentle push and pull, and then it goes back from where it came. She makes a soft eek sound.
There is a smile. She likes it. I am in all my glory experiencing this with her. I see all of her intelligence expressed without words as she makes sense of this new experience. She sees children nearby and they are shaping and molding this floor into little houses. This is unexpected, she stares, learns, thinks, and soon I know she will kneel down in the sand and see what she can make for herself. That’s when I will give her a shovel and see what she does. That will be today. Is there any more joy a day can promise than a child’s discovery of a new world? I don’t think so. I am aching to pull her out of her bed and take her into the morning sun, beside the sea, and observe what she will do with the sand next. But I will wait. I don’t want to rush into the treasure the day holds.
When I was a younger mom, I was so bent on teaching, guiding, and structuring my children’s experiences. But with Kira, I am so in awe of her sharp mind, intense eyes, and careful responses that I only want to observe, wait and see what is in her that will cause her to make her next choice. It is as if she is an exotic, colorful and rare butterfly and I get to watch her dance around my flowers I grew to attract her to come, and sometimes she lands on me and we interact, otherwise I am just held captive by the beauty, movement, and wonder of her. To pull out my net and put her in a jar would be the worst thing I could do. But I think that’s the way I used to parent my boys when they were young, I wanted to net them and move them inside, and help them become what I thought they ought to be.
This new parenting experience with Kira is strangely familiar, and all together fresh and challenging. As she grows, I discover I am also growing. Someone with silver hair once told me, to stay young you must never stop learning. Ok. I accept that advice. I want to learn more and more… and who knew a little baby girl from Uganda would teach me so much?