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I took another step and then another as I felt the grass give in beneath my feet. I heard her tiny steps behind me, whispering short phrases, interrupting the conversation she sparked along the way. We talked and laughed and when I stopped, she stopped. I looked back and saw her standing in the prints my boots made. Her foot filling only a portion of my own. How could something so small seem so big?

“Keep walking,” she said. “I’ll keep following you.”

Sometimes it hits me, the pressure of parenting is intense. The responsibility can be crushing, it’s heavy and consuming. The constant thinking and overthinking of every decision and the never-ending thoughts that you have no idea what you’re doing seem to define more days than not. You live in fear of consequences should you do this instead of that and ask yourself repeatedly: what happens if I mess up.

What happens if I mess her up?

Keep walking, I’ve learned. The path somehow reveals itself after every step, it appears and catches your feet and memorizes your prints. The road is paved as you go because every journey is different and no one has walked this way, your way, before now. Until now. Some will try to convince you otherwise, they've been where you are, but lanes can run parallel without being the same. 

“Daddy?” she asked a few minutes later. “Can you slow down?”

I looked behind me and realized my strides were wider than hers and her tiny footprints were dotting my own with another one in between. Her path. The road is paved as you go, every journey is different. While she’s following my example, she’s creating her own version of the rules in the process. While she’s listening and learning, catching life lessons as I throw them over my shoulder, she’s finding her own way.

I stopped. She stopped.

We faced each other because sometimes you can’t see what lies ahead unless you’re willing to look behind you. She stepped on my toes like she did when she was smaller and we danced. She slid off and climbed back on between steps and everything disappeared, the path and the doubts and the pressure, as my feet carried hers in circles and sways. The grass made every effort to capture our prints, but they were mixed together and flattened. Messy.

What happens if I mess up?

She stepped off my feet and her toes faced my own. We looked around and noticed the prints were different, our paths changed. Some of her lighter impressions were leading while my heavier steps were following. Some of her prints were inside mine and others beside. Some were going in opposite directions and some, my favorites, were toe to toe; challenging and rewarding. Parenting, a path worth paving.

 “Just keep walking,” she said and the grass gives in under each step.

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