Baby steps: walking into a new stage of life
There are certain milestones in parenting that you really look forward to: your baby‘s first smile, the first taste of solid food and perhaps more than anything, the first step.
Experienced parents like nothing more than to ruin your tingly anticipation with dire warnings:
That’s not a smile; it’s gas. And if you’re not careful, the baby’s going to set the room on fire...
Solid food, eh? Your diaper pail is going to start to smell like a camel in a phone booth. Better buy a moon suit.
You’ll spend your whole day chasing after the baby...
When children start walking, they’re 72 percent more likely to split their heads open like melons...
I once knew a baby who walked at six months. Wore his legs down to bloody stubs. They had to get all new carpet!
Like all new parents, Adam and I looked forward to Lucy’s first steps. We’ve been expecting them for months. When Lucy rolled over at a mere five weeks, we wrongly assumed she would walk at, say, four months. She didn’t. She couldn’t even sit up then. But, because we’re not demanding parents yet, we forgave her.
We forgave her, and we waited patiently for her to crawl. This did not happen at five months, like we expected. But we said, “That’s all right, baby,” and tried not to laugh in the early crawling days when she could only go backward.
Even though we know it’s not nice to laugh at your children, particularly when they are innocent babies, we couldn’t help but laugh when Lucy developed The Turbocrawl. This is where she puts her head down and moves her arms and legs as fast as they can go. She frequently bumps into walls this way. But there is dignity in this; she hits them with impressive speed.
When Lucy started to stand at nine months, we again expected her to walk, any day. As it happened, she did not, despite frequent walking lessons and good advice from my 5-year-old cousin Paul, who suggested she start with “baby steps — just baby steps.”
By Lucy’s first birthday, I was really ready for her to walk. First steps on a first birthday would have been awfully poetic, so I aimed the video camera as Lucy’s uncle John nudged her forward. After extreme coaxing, she did it. Three steps! And then she sat down and started looking miserable. So much for the magic of turning 1. It does not mean a baby will suddenly give up crawling forever, no matter how overbearing the parent.
In the two weeks since, Adam and I have given Lucy many opportunities to strut her stuff. This is despite the warning from Uncle Michael about life with a walking baby. On the one hand, I know that Michael is probably right. He usually is.
But on the other hand, there’s a reason they don’t sell babies at the convenience store. Babies are inconvenient, and thoroughly so. Given that, what would it mean if Lucy crossed one more threshold?
I think I am beginning to find out.
She’s also starting to show great interest in practicing this new skill. Her new hobby is what Adam calls “mowing down the pets.” Lucy laughs maniacally as she races her plastic walker toward the dog, the cats and anything furry that’s not smart enough to get out of her way. This mostly means me.
Lucy has the stamina to play this game all day long, every day. And the practice is paying off.
Just the other day, she took nine steps toward Adam. She looked like a metronome, rocking from one shuffling foot to the other. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. If there was a sound-effect to Lucy’s walking, that’s what it would be.
Tick, tock. Tick, tock. This is the sound of a time bomb.
There are only days left before Lucy is no longer a baby. Once she’s walking, she’ll be a toddler. There will be no backward crawling from here.
I’m going to miss that little bean. It’s almost enough to make me want to have another baby. I’ve taken to sniffing friends’ newborns, just to enjoy that new baby smell once again. I hope this is legal. It sure beats the smell of the diaper pail.
The only thing that makes saying goodbye to my baby bearable is the knowledge that I’ll be there as she turns into a child, and over the years, into an adult.I have just one request of her: baby steps, Lucy. Take baby steps. If nothing else in my life does, I want this adventure to last.