Michelle Martin

Bumps and bruises

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I remember the way Teresa looked when she was a small infant — little hair, no teeth, soft, porcelain skin without a mark on it.

No more. While she’s still (and always will be) my baby girl, her hair is long enough to need a barrette to keep it out of her eyes, she’s got lots of teeth with more coming each day, and her skin, especially on her shins, is covered with black and blue marks.

The bruises are small and not deep, popping up and fading every few days. She doesn’t seem to notice them, and I’m not worried about them. Quite the opposite; they make me smile.

Those are the bruises a toddler wears as a badge of honor, finally able to get around well enough that she is encountering some of the literal stumbling blocks in her world. They come from running into the furniture, falling down, crawling over rough ground, and dropping books and blocks.

Sure, I do what I can to help her avoid any unnecessary pain and suffering, but these little bruises usually come when she is so intent on what she is doing (or trying to do) that she doesn’t feel them. They don’t come with physical suffering — only the frustration when it’s difficult to master something and the joy when it finally happens.

Still not a steady independent walker, Teresa has learned to get from one end of the house to the other with a hand on a chair, a table, a wall, in the blink of an eye. If there is no convenient handhold, she’ll move a chair over; if that doesn’t work, she’ll take a step or two or crawl. Makes no difference to her, as long as she gets where she wants to go.

The real pain comes when where-shewants- to-go is somewhere she just can’t be, like playing with the stove or dumping her big sister’s beads out of their containers. So we try to head her off, nudge her in a different direction — see, it’s so much more fun to bang on a metal bowl with a wooden spoon.

We can discuss parental suffering another time. Just let me say that I am grateful for the industrial size bottles of ibuprofen at Costco.

Fortunately, any tendencies I may have had to want a neat, organized home have long given way to sharing limited living space with a husband, children and pets. Sippy cup on the floor? Check for dog hair and rinse it off. Baby eating the dog’s food? Clean it up (because by the time she’s got it in her mouth, she’s spilled it all over the floor), put it out of reach and be glad our dog is willing to share.

The bumps and bruises she suffers as she grows up will no doubt be more painful — especially the emotional ones — but for now, I’m going to celebrate the ones she has.