I came across it as I was cleaning my closet this evening: the sun-bleached bark brown material; the sacrificial cloth that protects the shoulder straps from slobber and baby teeth and boogers; the waist strap still stained with my sweat ring; my very own koala pouch; the Ergo.
I’ve come across it before, and could always lovingly tuck it back into the closet, telling myself comfortingly that at least the little one is still young enough to fit in it in a pinch. That we might just find ourselves on a hike where his legs will poop out, and I’d whip out our trusty Ergo and everyone would cheer because I would save the day by carrying him across the finish line.
But that’s not how our last several hikes have played out. The Ergo sat quietly in the closet while those once baby boys explored lava tubes and waterfalls, hiked/ran across sand dunes for hours, completed a rather humorous but completely disastrous trail run with me, and backpacked into and out of the Grand Canyon. T (now 10) is a force, being both stronger and far more agile than me. M (now 6) does an incredible job keeping up and has only suffered from tired legs a few times, namely coming out of the Canyon. We had a few incidents of boy-splayed-out-in-the-middle-of-trail-wailing-about-how-we-are-so-hard-on-him, followed by a pulling-together-of-one’s-self and an interesting discussion about settling into the idea that when we don’t know when we’ll arrive somewhere all we can do is keep putting one foot in front of the other. There’s no way I could have carried that sweet boy anyway, so a mind over matter solution was serendipitous.
Our life has changed a lot since wandering into that small shop in Littleton as wide-eyed new parents and investing $100 on that Ergo, a purchase that turned out to be both life-saving and life-changing for me. It allowed me to keep them close and safe while getting out of the house, running errands, hiking, biking, and most importantly, farming. They both spent hours in that precious piece of equipment, and there are times when I ache for that closeness again. I sense their gradual outward motion as they grow up. I now work outside the home full-time while E works the farm, and boys both go to school. They are starting to become their own independent people with their own agendas and ideas, and I’m no longer imperative to their survival as I once was.
So tonight when I saw my beloved little helper (the healthy kind) in a heap in the back corner of my closet, it aroused an acute melancholy and I missed the way they used to depend on me and the closeness we had when they were babies. The realization also struck me in a way it never had before, that even if their legs are tired and even if I could, me carrying them across a finish line isn’t really what they need anymore anyway. That it’s okay for the form of my support to evolve. I want them to develop independence and self-reliance, fortitude and perseverance. Ergo, I’ve decided that instead maybe what they could use is for me to just do my best to walk beside them when their legs ache, hold their hand if they want it, and listen openly to their thoughts about how hard the tribulation might feel.
It’ll never find itself in the donation box, though. Some day you might just find me wearing it empty while doing the dishes, remembering the feeling of a sleeping red head resting on my back.