~by Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
A toddler! The transition from baby to toddler isn’t for the fainthearted–child or parents. My daughter, Charlotte, is a year old now. She’s living in that cusp between baby and toddler. I’ve been receiving weekly updates about her growth and development since before she was born, topics such as how big she was in my belly, how I should be feeling, what I should be doing to prepare for her arrival, and everything about how my life was about to change.
The updates continued upon her arrival, too. Now the topics switched to her weekly growth, how much she should be eating, what her development should be, how to balance being a parent with work demands, and what other moms were saying. With each email I’d have feelings of excitement and nostalgia, so many changes, so much development. And then it seemed overnight, she went from being my baby to being my toddler.
The magic date coincided with her first birthday. I blinked and Charlotte was one year old. I blinked and she was a toddler! It wasn’t only the term toddler that meant she was growing up, she was doing all those toddler-like things: crawling, eating more, chewing, standing, cruising around our furniture, opening and closing our cupboards, getting into the shelves, making her way to the dog’s food bowl, etc… We indeed had an independent, I have a mind of my own child. A toddler!
We were so excited to see her reaching out her arms to us so she could stand by her favorite toy, which at that time was her VT Learning Walker. We’d get her in position and she’d slowly take a step.
With great determination.
With unwavering effort.
Step by step.
It didn’t take more than a week before she was independently tearing up and down our long hallway, turning back proudly every few seconds to make sure we were watching each step. She’d run into the wall and we’d be there to steer her in the right direction. And inevitably, she’d fall. It always seemed to be in slow motion as her knees gave out and she’d fall forward toward the toy. But her hands; we watched her hands each time. Without fail, with each and every fall – she never let go.
Her two tiny hands clenched to the handles as her body fell forward.
The rest of her body had splayed out on the floor and her two, small hands firmly held on to the handle bar.
Charlotte never let go.
As her dutiful parents, we’d go and pick her back up, all the while as she kept her hands firmly positioned ready to walk again.
Charlotte taught her parents in those moments. She taught us to always hold on. I need Charlotte to continue to teach me through her actions the power in holding on, in not letting go, even though obstacles and falls and heartache will trip me up. This last year as a new parent and balancing my vocation of parent and pastor and wife and daughter and friend, I kept tripping up. I kept stumbling. I kept falling. But looking back I see the power in simply holding on. Holding on to the love and support of family and friends. Holding on to the power of showing up for worship week after week. Holding on to my daughter as she looked up into my eyes. Holding on to grace. Holding on to forgiveness. Holding on. Always being ready to start again.
Charlotte is in that in-between time of cruising and walking on her own now. I’m now in an in-between time of vocational transition. After 5 years of ministry in my first call, I’m taking a leave from call to be at home with Charlotte. It’s a leap of faith for our clergy couple family. But this new year brings a renewed chance to slow down and listen. To worship together as a family. To write more. And most importantly, to hold on to one another and the God who continues to pick us up. Over and over again.
*Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of a one-year-old, and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Missouri.