Motherhood Mantras: Hold the Railing



This post is part of a series called “Motherhood Mantras.” To read more about the series, and the full list of writers, click here.

I say it to Juliette over and over again. There are probably only two phrases I use more often. I love you, of course. And, ever fishing for gratitude and manners: What do you say?

Hold the railing.

I say it at the bottom of the steps when she’s on her way up. I say it at the top of the steps when she’s on her way down. She’s four now, and quite steady on her feet. Having been scolded firmly enough to know better, she rarely fools around on the stairs. To my great relief, much of the time her small hand drifts to the wooden bannister without prompting, but if she takes so much as a single hands-free step down, the words just fall out of my mouth. Sometimes more sharply than they should, to be honest.

Hold the railing.

It’s a motherhood nag, not a motherhood mantra. Right? Or perhaps it is a mantra. I repeat the same words to myself, thundering down our creaky wooden steps with the baby in one hand and always, always, something else in the other.

They are everywhere, these menaces of gravity and right angles. People fall down the stairs all the time, breaking a hip, an ankle, a neck. Stairwells are just one small danger in what seems like an infinite funhouse of ways to get hurt. We are so vulnerable, so breakable. We cannot fend off every attack or avoid every pitfall or swerve from the path of every errant automobile. It is enough to make a mama weary with worry, or worse, paralyzed by anxiety.

But most stairwells, including ours, come with these extraordinarily simple contraptions there to keep us steady as we move. All you have to do is reach out your hand and grasp it, letting your palm glide over the smooth wood or cold metal.

Christians talk about things seen and unseen. There are the railings we can see, like the one our handyman drilled into the plaster. And there are the railings we cannot see, spiritual and emotional and practical resources that are right there, always, just waiting for us to reach out and grasp them.

We are not always safe. But we are never alone.

Hold the railing.

Katherine Willis Pershey is the associate minister of First Congregational Church of Western Springs and the author of Any Day a Beautiful Change: A Story of Faith and Family.

4 thoughts on “Motherhood Mantras: Hold the Railing

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  • April 27, 2012 at 1:01 pm
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    “And there are the railings we cannot see, spiritual and emotional and practical resources that are right there, always, just waiting for us to reach out and grasp them.” This is so very true.

    Also, I had to laugh a little as “hold the railing” seemed to be my wife’s mantra for me while I was pregnant. I took a fall early in my pregnancy and it made her paranoid. Every.single.day. for 9 months I heard “hold the railing!” “hold the railing!” “Kris, the railing!”

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