In Her Own Time: Musing on Walking and Other Developmental Milestones
It was a simple, easy morning. We woke up a little extra chipper, worked our way up to and through a decently yummy oatmeal breakfast. She crawled and knee-walked around, particularly fascinated with two plastic balls – one yellow, one blue. She’s been dropping and pseudo-throwing things lately (mostly balls and stones) and just watching them go as they may until they stop. She is learning something important, it seems. Maybe it’s got something to do with gravity, my little Newton, and perhaps how to defy it. As my partner and I were enjoying the last of our tea, and about to move into our day, the little sweetie, ball in hand, stood up and walked across the floor for the very first time. Then she plunked down on her knees and did it again. Six steps. Then seven. Then eleven. So on and so on. Today has been a sort of magical day in light of this new toddling wonder. To see this amazing little human decide on her own to walk alone and in such an ordinary mundane moment just sort of blew my mind. It is fascinating and inspiring, and spiritual somehow. She’s been standing unassisted for months, and even took one, then two very wobbly steps a week or so ago. This though, this was the real thing! And all on her little lovely lonesome *sniff*. Our daughter is 13 months. We’ve gotten a lot of advice from well-meaners lately as to how to “get her to walk”. But we knew she’d walk alone in her own good time, so we offered her our hands and fingers when she asked for them, kept her in soft shoes, enjoyed her odd knee walking and delightful backwards steps when holding our fingers, and just loved her up one side and down the other per usual, no schedule needed. I didn’t want to rush her out of her crawling stage, for all the physical, cerebral and emotional connections that were growing there, just as I don’t want to rush her away from the curious way she’s playing with balls. It’s all got its own brilliant logic. She’s absorbing, musing, trying and growing as fast as she needs to, as slow as she needs to. She’s not thinking about it, the development is just, well… developing. One resource that has helped my partner and I find and affirm our patient approach to development is the work of Dr. Emily Pikler. She pioneered a science-based movement to just let babies be, proposing that a healthy baby has the ability to find her way developmentally exactly as needed and requires no extra intervention. In fact, Pikler and her contemporaries assert that doing the opposite (putting babies in positions they can’t sustain themselves such as propped sitting and using walkers or other mobility devices) undermines their physical and emotional well-being. I don’t subscribe to all of Pikler’s ideas, but I wholeheartedly embrace this one. I believe and feel I witness that the more I let my child be to discover, problem solve and celebrate her own triumphs, the more she grows into who she is most naturally, following our bi-pedded lead naturally, no “instruction” needed. Today’s walking excitement isn’t the first I’ve seen of her self-directed “ta-dah” moments, of course – as moms, we see “ta-dahs” every day, don’t we? But the big moves in her motor development world are an especially big joy! A couple weeks ago, she picked up a spoon and dug into her oats like it was common course. A couple months ago, she picked up some color pencils and started “writing” like mama. The other day, she turned around and backed herself off of the bed. We didn’t teach her that, we didn’t teach her any of it, well not intentionally I mean. When her little feet planted solidly on the floor, having backed and lowered herself to her goal, she looked up with a knowing smile. I saw that same smile today, ball in hand, walking across the dining room floor at breakfast time. That soft beam of contented confidence, that will always be worth the wait for me. Knowing that she’ll know she can and will figure out what she needs to in due time, that’s priceless.