Her brother and her cousins, all older, were in the creek today behind my husband's childhood home searching for crawfish and minnows. Up and down the creek, they walked barefoot, calling and laughing with one another as the sun glistened through the trees. And my daughter wanted to join in. At first, I said no because there just wasn't a way for her to go in alone, the rocks too slippery and pointed for her two-year-old feet and sense of balance to navigate and quite honestly, I didn't want to go wading. And she cried because she wanted to be with the boys. And in that moment, I remembered what it felt like to be the one five years younger than everyone else and often left behind.
I'm the baby of my family by five years; my brother is five-years-older and my sister is eight ahead of me. The distance has shortened over the years, but when I was little, it seemed like I was always so little in comparison. It was often the reason (and valid one) why I couldn't do this or that, go here or there. I remember crying many times when I was left behind, my tears dripping into my long braids that were my signature back then. Over time, I just was disappointed when they went off together or with friends. Often, my mom would call for me to bake or my dad would ask me to come and help him feed the animals. And I remember those times. I really do.
So today, when she got upset, I saw myself in her face which otherwise doesn't look at all like my own. She's five years younger than everyone, too. Her brother, like my siblings, loves her and tries to include her when he can, but he's just older and exploring the world in different ways. Many adventures aren't for her yet. But when I looked at her crying and disappointed face, I realized she could do it with me. I had an opportunity to adventure with her. When I asked her if she wanted to wade with me, her tears stopped and her big blue eyes glistened. She smiled and grabbed my hand. We took off our shoes and rolled up our pants, climbed over the rocky ledge, and waded in the freezing cold, mountain water. She giggled and said “I doing it, mommy.” When we took a break and sat on the bank, we took turns examining rocks and I tried to show her how to skip them. I've never mastered it myself, but we tried together. She was so happy and so I was, too.
Many things have changed since I was the little girl left behind. I'm older and now a mom of my own. My siblings are parents now, too. Many things have changed, but I still have a signature braid and love wading in the creek. I had forgotten some of that, but my children have called me back to who I was long ago. And now, I can help another little girl find her love of nature, too, and the feeling of her toes sinking into the mud below the water. That's no small thing, really, is it? And I hope she remembers that her mom didn't mind rolling her pants up and taking her in the water. Ever. Her mom helped her lead her inherently independent life.
Thanks for Mothering the Divide with me, as we experience everyday wonders. Don't sit on the sidelines this weekend. Wade in, run in, jump in. Yes, jump into your life. It's waiting. They're waiting.
This piece originally appeared on Mothering The Divide.