I’m sitting just across the room from you, cross-legged with my back against the wall, tepid coffee by my side. You’re in the corner, beside your favourite basket of toys, on your bottom – where you’ve been for the last 3 months.
Except this time, your two slightly podgy hands (baby’s hands are definitely my favourite body part, of anyone, ever) are pressed down on the carpet just a few inches in front of you, and you’re gently rocking your body forward and backward, arching your little back as you go, your sizeable cloth nappy-ed bottom sticking up in the air. You’ve got your back to me, in fact, I don’t think you even really know I’m here. You continue rocking yourself for a good few minutes, and with each forward motion your bottom momentarily lifts off the floor before dropping back down, your arms flexing and straightening as you (try to) go. You end up building some good momentum, and wait woah, you’ve just rotated a quarter of a turn! I stay firmly in my spot, observing you, in wonder and adoration. I take a silent sip of my drink.
You end up building some good momentum, and wait woah, you’ve just rotated a quarter of a turn! I stay firmly in my spot, observing you, in wonder and adoration
And so begins, the bottom bounce. This goes on for a good few weeks and you become quite the mover! I put you down in one place, and am genuinely amazed at how you ended up somewhere totally different five minutes later. I wonder to myself if you’ll ever crawl. Maybe you’ll go from bum shuffling straight to walking? That’d be kinda neat. You see, by now you’re 10 months old which, according to the books, is the age that babies “should” be crawling by. But I’m in no rush. Not least because a stationary baby means houseplant leaves remain firmly in tact. And you’re content, so content Abey, watching the world go by, or your big brothers play.
But more to the point, I’m in no rush because this is your growth, Abey, this is your body, and crawling is your challenge. And I know when you get there, it’ll feel even more powerful, and you’ll be even more capable, because you got there alone.
Still, I don’t help you or touch that pesky leg of yours. I wait, I watch, I do nothing. Eventually you sit back on your bottom and you let out a little wail. I go and retrieve you and bundle you up in my arms.
Flash forward a few more weeks and by now, you’re pivoting on your hand, flopping on to one side and nearly finding your way onto all fours except for your back left leg which isn’t quite co-operating. You haven’t worked out how to fully unfurl it so it’s getting a bit stuck. You’re not displaying any sign of upset and whilst some folk might say you’re getting “frustrated” as you continue to propel yourself forward, in a sort of twisted mess, all I see is increasing determination and more inches of movement. Your eyes are firmly set a few paces in front of you. Still, I don’t help you or touch that pesky leg of yours. I wait, I watch, I do nothing. Eventually you sit back on your bottom and you let out a little wail. I go and retrieve you and bundle you up in my arms.
See here’s the thing, it’s weird because our parenting instinct tells us that its uncaring to sit back, that we must do something, that we’re being good parents by helping our kids. To not rush in, to not go adjust a leg, tie a shoelace or butter a piece of bread for our little ones, takes conscious effort and control. But here’s the thing – it’s in the trying and the failing and the trying and the failing and the failing and the succeeding, that the magic truly happens. I’m no expert but my gut feeling tells me that, just like with adults, it’s here that the juicy process of learning and growing takes place. And it’s here that the feeling of satisfaction is truly felt.
I think one of the most powerful words in my parenting philosophy, inspired by Magda Gerber, is “wait”. Wait to see first what a child is capable of, wait for discovery, wait before interrupting, wait for conflict resolution between siblings and friends, wait for tears to express themselves, wait for ideas. Just wait.
Wait to see first what a child is capable of, wait for discovery, wait before interrupting, wait for conflict resolution between siblings and friends, wait for tears to express themselves, wait for ideas. Just wait.
Unlike with your brothers, to whom I’m certain I gave a helping hand on their crawling journey, I’ve never once put you on your tummy, moved a single part of your body or indeed ever really touched you as you’ve learnt to crawl.
It’s been such a joy to watch you evolve from the bottom bouncer to find movement to the perfect little crawler you are now. Also, please just please bypass the monsterosa plant leaves, if that’s OK? [insert praying hands emoticon]. Next stop – walking. Whenever you’re ready, that is.