There are stairs all over Paris.
No big deal. It's good exercise for me. But it's another story when I have my four year old in hand. (And let's not even begin to describe the horrors of the stairs with our giant "sit n' stand" stroller!) Let's just say, we are extra grateful when the rare elevator or escalator is available.
But, you know, the mind of a four year old maintains the innocence of life at its simplest. She doesn't sense a pressing need for speed anywhere. She wants to enjoy the experience. And even if she does move "fast" for her, it's still not at the pace of the average city person. Plus, let's face it, she has short little legs, and her capacity to move quickly is limited. Every step is taken with caution, not one foot in front of the other, but every step, monotonously, one. at. a. time. And of course, I insist that she hold both the rail and my hand. Just imagine it: we're backing up hurried Parisian crowds in stairways all over the city.
I found myself getting anxious about this the other day when we were walking down to the metro station. The staircase was narrow, Charity was cautiously proceeding downward, and people were backing up behind her, yet again. It was the end of another long day walking through the city, and I was tired. My nerves were rising, my feet were weary, people were on our tail, and I just wanted to reach the bottom so we could sit and wait for the train to take us home.
In that moment, I remembered the importance of a deep breath, and appreciating the independence of my little girl. Even if she does it slowly, she's learning how to navigate an enormous city at a young age. I'm not a city girl. I love the city, but I grew up in small suburbs. The first time we got on a train as a family to head to Paris and we walked up and down all those stairs and toured the giant city, I was nervous. Not just for my kids, but for myself. This was somewhat unfamiliar territory for me. Oh sure, I had been to New York, San Francisco, and even Paris before. But the reality that this was our new life, that this was going to be our "everyday", that made me nervous, and it was pressing in on me. This is part of a lovely thing we call culture shock. But for my kids, they have the opportunity at a very young age to experience the city and allow this amazing environment to become their "normal". That's one of the reasons I love that we moved abroad. My children get to experience a unique childhood unlike so many, and as they become adults, their world will be be bigger and minds expanded because of it.
So I guess every time we traverse the stairs in the city, it's just another simple way that God is teaching me patience, helping me let my kids grow on their own, and reminding me to appreciate life even on crowded, dirty, city stairways. One small, baby step at a time.