Friday, April 07, 2006

Taking Steps

Q, our eleven-month-old daughter, is walking.

Personally, I've never gotten that excited about milestones--the baby manuals are full of them. These books pitch clapping and stacking blocks as both important measures of child development and abilities that crop up on wildly idiosyncratic timetables. Moreover, you can actually “teach to the test,” as it were. Supposedly kids can stand on one foot for a short period of time around age two, but mastery can come pretty quickly with a little practice. The boy never really liked to throw balls around, which made him appear behind in the normal boy trajectory. From our experience, first words are a little vague, too. The boy began with “da” for nearly everything — buses, dogs — and Q works with “ba” — “bye, bye,” baby, etc. When did their babble become talking? Who knows? And according to the books, at age two the boy should have had a vocabulary of about 50 words; my lovely wife and I tired of counting when we passed 150 (including oddities like “steep” and “crescent moon”). This is not to brag (okay not just to brag), but to inject a little skepticism into milestone scorekeeping. Oh yes, and since the boy was born two months early, the math on all of that was fuzzy to begin with.

Some milestones really do matter, though, and walking is one of them. The house looks like a deathtrap now, all those sharp edges leaning out toward her. She now views our sitting her down in the middle of the floor as an invitation to stand up on her own and to move about freely. Which she does. Just last night I put her in front of the toy box that I could almost see from the kitchen as I started dinner. After a few minutes of washing and chopping, I look up to her rooting around in the plant on the other side of the room. More than once lately I've seen her somehow magically appear at our shiny silver trash can, about  to lick it.

She also uses her new mobility to terrorize her brother. After they both woke up from their naps yesterday, I threw together a train track out of his IKEA collection of wooden track pieces (thank you again, Ong/Ba Ngoai), and he proceeded to make a long train that would make the Thomas folks at HIT blush with pride and profit. Q, seated nearby, slowly worked herself up to standing, made her way over to the track, and promptly began to violently disassemble it. The boy rolled over into a cry. I knew this kind of exchange was on the way, I just didn’t think that it would happen so quickly. (We also thought that he would be the one to terrorize her. Wrong.)

Walking matters in a good way as well, of course. Beyond earning several pairs of beautiful shoes, it vividly represents the move from infant to toddler. She'll soon thin out, get those ropy toddler legs. She'll soon splash in the tiny fountains out front, all on her own, when the weather finally warms for good. She'll walk over to you, with a smile that dispels all clouds, and fall into a hug that she has brought to you herself.

In the end, I suppose those are the true milestones, the little but large steps we all take on the way to becoming persons. She’s just taken another one. Congrats, Q.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


I like the line near the end about her bringing her own hug. It makes one feel good.