“Thank you for bringing me on the stairs, mama”, R says as we arrive at the top of the staircase, at the train station. Then she tells me she loves going on stairs.
Yes, I know that. She thanked me every single time we reached a set of stairs on our Europe holiday. Her uncle, my brother, was impressed with her manners. If you’ve been at the tube station in London, you’ll know that there are lots of stairs from the entrance to the platform. Paris is worse. By lots, I mean about 50 steps to get to your platform but if you’re changing platforms, there will be a bunch of stairs you go up and then another set of steps to go down to get to the next platform. It’s stressful when you’re in a hurry. Not for her, though. She loved it.
I do not know what her fascination with staircases is. I let her walk up steps and go down by herself as soon as she started to walk. At 11 months old, she would hold on to the railings and take one step at a time. I’d be standing at about 4 steps below, with my heart in my mouth, hoping that she wouldn’t fall through the gap in the railings. Thankfully, she never did. Even then, she would walk with one foot per step, like the grown-ups. I hadn’t noticed it until my mom pointed out when she was less than a year old, how she didn’t put both feet on the same step before taking off to the next one. Maybe she did initially but I don’t remember her going with two feet per step so it couldn’t have been for long. She learned by watching us and I never consciously taught her how to walk.
When she is tired or feeling lazy, she asks to be picked up or sit in the pram but only till we arrive at a staircase. As soon as she sees one, she’ll wriggle out of my arm and insist on walking by herself. When there is a choice between taking the lifts or the stairs, she always chooses the stairs. She noticed when, one afternoon, I automatically walked in the direction of stairs instead of taking the lifts on our way back home from daycare. She thanked me for it and has done so ever since then. It’s been months now and she still thanks me. Every single time.
She used to play this game when we got home every evening. She would go up the stairs
first. I should stay at the bottom until she got to the first landing and then start walking up. Her dad should wait for me, till I got to the landing. As always, I obliged. It never occurred to me to question her when she made up these rules. I play along with all her silly games and rules she cooks up. Her dad, not so much. At first, we would let him go up before us, so he wouldn’t fuss.
“Daddy needs to unlock the front door for us”, I would tell her.
She doesn’t do that anymore. I wonder if it has to do with her going home with daddy on some days. He doesn’t have the patience for her stupid rules. If he has nothing in his hands, he likes to get a move on. When he is juggling her bag, his and a couple of her toys, there is no way, he will wait at the bottom of the steps while she gets to the top and gives him the go. More so because she will sometimes stop mid-step to tell you the intricacies of her game. She is Elsa, he is Kristoff and a whole yarn around the details of how the process of walking up two flights of stairs is going to play out.
I’ve told her she doesn’t need to thank me every time we come to stairs but she won’t listen. I’ve decided to enjoy it while it lasts. So when she said that to me at the train station yesterday, I couldn’t help but smile. Then we held hands and walked down, as she went on about something that happened during the day. She walks faster than a lot of adults I’ve seen at the train station, so I’ve never worried that we were holding anyone up. When we got off at our stop, we were the first at the stairs. We had a big crowd of people following behind but that was okay. We walked to one side, so the runners could skip steps and run up past us. The rest of the folks just walked behind us. One tiny foot on each step, stretching her little legs wide, she strode up the stairs like a boss. No one complained. I wonder if anyone even noticed that it was a toddler in front of them.