When do you know that your baby is becoming less like a baby and more like a little person? Is it when she takes her first steps? Calls your name for the first time? Or maybe it is when she throws her peas in disgust?

For me, the sign that my child is not a baby was when she was able to down stairs without any help. This afternoon, Kayla and I stopped by a playground in Deerfield, IL. Kayla really loves the slide so I did not consider it odd when she headed for the stairs that led to the slide. She has climbed up these types of stairs many, many times. I had no worries for her because I knew that she would simply choose a slide and shoot right down. So I was shocked when, at the top of the stairs, she turned around, a slight mischievous smile on her face, and climbed down them too. I asked her if she wanted my help and she said “No!” So I backed off and did not try to take her hand (but I could not stop from putting my hand in front of her as if to prevent her from falling down the stairs.) As soon as she saw my hand, she pushed it away as if annoyed with my trying to protect her. And each time I put my hand out, she pushed it away and said “No!”

I was reminded of all of those essays that I read while pregnant about letting my child fall on the playground and skin her knees. Rrriiiggghhhttt, it makes sense IN THEORY that by falling she will also learn how to navigate her world. But, in practice, there is no WAY that I am letting my precious child fall down stairs and hurt herself just so she can LEARN how not to fall. Images of the tumble she took this winter down a friend’s stairs flashed in front of my eyes. Other scenes of Kayla possibly breaking her arm (or worse) and our needing to go to the hospital also came rushing to my mind. I decided that we were leaving the park. THERE WAS NO WAY THAT I WAS GOING TO LET KAYLA FALL DOWN THE STAIRS let alone IN A PUBLIC PLACE.

If Kayla was going to do any falling it was going to be in the comfort of our own condo building and preferably when I am not around!

And so, with Kayla screaming “NNNNOOOOO” we packed it up and headed home.

Flash forward a few hours and we needed to go to the store. To get there, we would need to go down 2 flights of stairs. With pink bear and a sippy cup (not to mention our sunglasses) in toe, we faced the stairs. And Kayla would not let me help her. In fact, she would not even let me count the stairs as she went down. Carefully grabbing the banister, Kayla slowly lowered herself down each stair. After each one, I would applaud her and shout “Hurray!” When she finally reached the first landing, she jumped up and down and also clapped. Once she was finished rejoicing, she got serious and faced the next set of stairs. And everything went well until she stumbled on the second to last step and…she went flying. But, with my applause and encouragement she pulled herself right up, said that she was “sorry” and checked to make sure that I was still holding her pink bear. I felt my heart swell with what may be a combination of sadness and pride. I was a little sad to see my child become less of a baby and more of an independent little girl. But I was also so proud of her accomplishment. SHE DID IT! SHE WENT DOWN THE STAIRS HERSELF WITHOUT ANY HELP!

She turned to me with her big brown eyes and her mass of curls and asked “Up?” After all of the that, she still wanted me to carry her down the last few stairs. Maybe she isn’t ready to totally give up being a baby either.