The Muddy Footprint

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I walked into my daughter’s bedroom and there it was; a horrible, muddy footprint in the middle of her cream-coloured carpet. I stopped walking to stare at it and I vaguely remember saying something out loud, something which would probably not have been very ‘sweet’.

 

It was filthy, it was wet, and it shouldn’t have been there because my girls always take their shoes off when they go upstairs. What a mess!

 

But then I remembered; and it meant so much more than what I’d just been thinking.

 

I immediately relaxed, smiled, exhaled with relief as much as with pride and just cleaned it up.

 

I knew exactly why it was there and the immediate horror that I’d felt just seconds earlier vanished, only to be replaced with joy.

 

We had been playing outside. We seem to spend lots of our time there at the moment, just in our garden and just the three of us (when daddy is at work).

This year is already less exhausting than last year because last year I had a crawling eight-month-old baby who literally put whatever she could find into her mouth. My eldest daughter (then two-years-old) couldn’t rely on me to play games for prolonged periods of time because my youngest had to be always monitored and if I had to step inside for whatever reason, it usually meant them both coming with me, even just for a few minutes. They were both in nappies, both very small, very dependent and just completely exhausting.

 

This last year I have witnessed major changes in both my girls as they grow and develop, not only in their own way but in their relationship towards each other. They play together now, well, sometimes, when they’re not running off with each other’s toys or winding each other up. They laugh with each other, which is a beautiful sound, and they can be left alone for more than two minutes while I get things done.

 

My youngest no longer eats everything in sight, my eldest’s imagination has blossomed and her solitary play is amazing; both of them now have grown up so much.

So now when we’re playing outside, I can sit back and watch them explore, watch them get messy, watch them investigate their surroundings and burn off some energy. It really is such a joy to see and much less tiring than last year.

 

On this particular day my three-year-old was covered in dirt and her shorts were pretty wet. She told me she was uncomfortable. We had the paddling pool out and I couldn’t leave it or my baby to sort her out so I asked her to do it.

 

When I think about how many instructions I gave her in one go, I am still impressed that she remembered them all. I asked her to go upstairs to her bedroom, get some new knickers from her knicker drawer and some new shorts from her clothes drawer, take her wet ones off, put them in the wash and put her clean ones on. She loved being given the chance to do it independently, her favourite thing at the moment because she is a ‘big girl’ as she keeps reminding me.

 

When she emerged from the house in her new, clean clothes I couldn’t believe it, (and yet I could, because she is very capable). I was very proud of her and the part of me that missed my baby was overshadowed by the part of me that loves watching her grow and take responsibility for herself. She will always be my baby, and I know she will continue to need me for many, many years, but she is definitely changing, definitely growing and definitely becoming more self-sufficient. In a short while, what she did may cease to impress, it will become the norm when she dresses herself in the mornings and I will ask her again and again to help out. But she has just turned three and to me, what she did was impressive.

 

So later, when I saw the mark that she had left behind in her bedroom, once I realised why it was there, I felt new levels of pride in what my daughter had achieved. There was the evidence that she had been there, opened the correct drawers and found what she was looking for. There was the evidence that I can continue trusting her to do things, to encourage her to take care of her own needs.

 

The dirty mark has gone now. The mud from her sandal washed away instantly, it took only seconds. But the memory of how I felt watching my baby look after herself and follow my instructions, the feelings of pride and of love, they will last forever. She left a footprint on my heart that day too, one that can never be washed away!

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