There is this weird sense of competition that exists among parents when it comes to infant/toddler milestones. We feel triumphant when our kids reach milestones early — as if this is proof-positive that our kids will be the ones to solve world hunger, bring peace on Earth and invent time machines. On the other hand, if our kids are “late” with their milestones, we fall into anxiety about what this says about our child and the quality of our parenting.
That’s how it’s been for me in regard to Baby E learning to walk. I had been almost certain that he’d be an early walker. After all, according to my parents I was walking by the time I reached 7 months old. So when Baby E showed an interest in standing at 4 months old, I just knew we were a few months away from early toddlerhood.
But his 6 month birthday came and went. So did his 7 month birthday. In fact, he didn’t even crawl until he was 8 months old.
It didn’t help when my father unhelpfully chimed in with, “He should be running by now.” Luckily, I can be a patient, laid back mother for the most part so I accepted that Baby E would walk when he was ready. It also didn’t hurt to know that walking at the age of 7 months is pretty unusual for a baby.
And so the months kept passing us by.
By 10 months, he was successfully climbing stairs. At the time, a 9 month old boy at our La Leche League meeting had just started walking but Baby E was content to crawl around after him.
11 months…12 months…We went to visit our relatives in the Midwest for Baby E’s first birthday.
And I heard…
“Is he close to walking yet?”
“You need to let him practice walking.”
“I’ll teach him to walk!”
On his birthday, Baby E got up from the floor without using an object for support, and everyone swore he was going to walk in the next few days.
Then we returned home. A month passed and now the other babies around his age at LLL were walking and running and Baby E didn’t care. He was content to crawl. He was content to cruise furniture and walls and to use the other walking babies as support beams. He was also content to tease me by taking a few unsupported steps here and there. I sighed, and resigned myself to the fact that I probably wasn’t raising a boy genius. And every time I learned there was another younger baby now walking, my patience faded a little more.
Then there was this past weekend.
C and I were in the middle of watching Spike Lee’s HBO four-part series, When the Levees Broke. I had been crying at the devastation of the Hurricane Katrina disaster in New Orleans — crying at the indignities suffered, the lives lost, the children lost and orphaned… And I kept thinking about the mothers and what it must be like to not know if your previously healthy child would survive… And what it must be like to feel so helpless… And to know that I would do whatever I needed to do to protect my child — boy genius or not, superhuman-in-the-making or not.
Meanwhile, Baby E had been crawling around on the floor. Then out of the blue, he stood up and walked five steps on his own.
Five steps! Five wobbly, toddler steps!
Naturally, we failed to get it on camera.
Naturally, we tried to get him to do it again for the camera.
Naturally, he ignored us.
But he kept trying all weekend.
So now I sort of have a walker — a cautious walker who will readily go back to crawling once he loses his balance — and a weird sense of relief, joy, anticipation and sadness that my baby won’t be a baby much longer.