2.6
July 9, 2010

Backtracking: a Mama’s Effort to Postpone the Inevitable.

Slow Down, Baby.

My daughter has preferred to be vertical for a few months now, though she cannot yet stand.

She fell deeply in love with her johnny-jump-up-seat the very first time she experienced the joys of harnessed bouncing, and she continues to squeal like a madbaby as she pushes up from the earth, twirls and swings and slingshots herself all over the place… she’s made an Olympic sport of it.

She also loves the ExerSaucer, another apparatus that holds her vertically while she practices the fine art of standing. If you pick her up, she stiffens her legs so you have no choice but to hold her under the pits while she uses your arm muscles as unsuspecting braces.  Then she bucks and bumps off of whatever is underneath her little feet while she maintains eye-contact with whomever is holding her, giggling and gummily grinning with drool puddling on her chin and heading in slow rivers downward.

It’s understandable for any adult to want to conserve this sort of maniacally blissful response in a wee one, parents included. Therefore, Opal has spent the last few months, by and large, cultivating the stand-up/sit-up position. Rarely did she spend much time in the horizontal position, which inspired a lukewarm response and put her in a predicament where she wound up hollering for assistance.

Most of the times I delivered Opal-updates that relayed information about our vertical-loving baby, I heard she may just skip crawling all together!…as if that was something to be proud of. As if she were somehow exceptional in her ability to simply skip an entire developmental step.

That is, until I ran into a good friend in the produce section of Whole Foods about a week ago. Her gorgeous year-old son watched us as he vacillated between curiosity and dumping sweet potatoes from a bag while I gave his mama the basic update on Opal I’d gotten so accustomed to giving. Her face became very serious. Oh, she said, you may really want to encourage her to crawl. She went on about how they learn so so much during this developmental phase on the floor: problem solving, deciphering left and right, the body-mind connection as a whole.

She got me to thinking.

When I got home that afternoon, I pulled Opal’s developmental books from the shelf and sifted through them, re-finding what I remembered reading before. They all describe a typical baby’s development very clearly: the find their hands, they roll, they sit up, they crawl, and so on. The books also describe ways to encourage these desired milestones. But nowhere did I find anything on the detriments of skipping a stage. So, it hadn’t even occurred to me to do anything different than support Opal in what she was naturally drawn to.

That afternoon, as an experiment, we decided to cut back on Opal’s time in the vertical position, to backtrack a bit, and really encourage her with floor-play for the foreseeable future.

And in the short time since then, her horizontal skills have absolutely exploded. Previously, she would tentatively roll from back to front, as if uncertain of the outcome of such a bold action.

Yesterday, she did a triple-roll, belly-to-back-to-belly, grabbed my shoe and rolled to her back to examine it before it even occurred to me what was happening! She triple and quadruple-rolls from the blanket we lie down for her, making headway on the real carpet (gasp!) and winding up covered in doghair (note to self to increase the vacuuming). She sets her sights on a toy and goes after it with fearless abandon, pulling, scootching, rolling herself to her target.

Last night, when I went in to check on her, I found her not only having rotated her body 180 degrees in her crib, but also lying on her belly, fast asleep! It’s as if she is becoming re-acquainted with the hands-on floor-world around her, collecting a whole new list of successes as she navigates, baby-pride beaming from her face.

Now, I don’t imagine any huge developmental damage would have occurred if I’d never run into my friend that fateful afternoon, and if Opal indeed continued on the path of vertical-living.

But all shoulds aside, what has really dawned on me is how automatic it is to want to leap forward, to hurry up to the next thing. It’s so easy to feel that progress is good but quick progress is even better.

Things are going plenty fast for me as it is. Opal will be vertical soon enough and for the rest of her living, breathing life (god-willing).

I appreciate having the opportunity, at least on this occasion, to pull back on the reins a bit and savor…exactly where we are.

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