Sunday, 29 July 2012

Learning to Walk


And he's off..
The two major baby milestones are learning to walk and learning to talk. Sadly, Marty still says very little other than “Ikea” or “Aky Arr” – translation seems to depend on how keen you are on flat packed furniture stores. However, he has finally learnt to walk!

It’s been a long old slog though. I knew that it takes a baby, on average, about a year to learn to walk. What I hadn’t realised is quite how long a year can seem. A foal is up and about within minutes, yet it took Marty months just to learn to sit upright! Frankly I found it hard to regard this as a genuine success.

“Oh look he’s sitting up all by himself!”
“And?”
“It’s a major breakthrough!”
“Eh? He’s sitting. Even politicians can manage that! What do you want me to do, ring Mensa?”

Marty seemed to enjoy it though, so much so that it was many more months before he felt the urge to move.

How he went about his first ventures into motion was largely determined by our flooring; downstairs all the rooms have either tiles or varnished wood flooring. This is great when Marty is throwing yoghurt around the room but it’s a far more difficult surface to learn to walk on, and far less forgiving when things go amiss.

Marty, however, soon realised that if he lay flat on the floor in his full-body romper suit he could reach out and slowly but surely drag himself over to those toys out of reach. He seemed very pleased with this development and I must admit I was impressed with his grit and determination.

From a parental point of view it changed things a little. We had got used to the idea of being able to find our baby pretty much where we’d left him. With the development of the ‘drag’ this was no longer a given. Fortunately it was a slow and laborious form of locomotion, so if he wasn’t exactly where we’d left him, he was still pretty close to exactly where we’d left him.

We’d expected that the ‘drag’ would be a brief interlude en route to the ‘crawl’ but this was not to be. Again the flooring played a part here in that Marty attempted a full crawl quite early on but forgot to move his arms at the same time as pushing forward with his legs. The end result was an unforgiving nosedive into solid pine, a painful memory that seemed to put him off the whole idea for many months.

I hadn’t realised how far behind Marty was until we went to a party and he sat there looking bemused as his slightly younger compatriots crawled around him with lightening pace. To make matters worse the host had a home fitted with wall-to-wall carpeting, a surface wholly unsuited to the intricacies of the ‘drag’.

The shame and ignominy of being out performed by children that were months younger seemed to spur us all on. That very evening we spent 30 minutes practicing movement across the bedroom carpet and within a few weeks Marty had grasped the essentials of the crawl.

Of course this was just the incentive the competition needed to learn to walk. The very next party saw Marty crawling around the room whilst the opposition teetered about the place on two feet!

Marty seemed entirely unmoved by this development; crawling got him from A to B with all the alacrity required of a 1 year old who doesn’t even own a watch. What was more it made a lovely noise on wood flooring.

There was certainly something very endearing about being greeted by a grinning, giggling bundle of fun, slapping his hands as loudly as he could on the floor as he crawled across the room towards me. Once he’d reached me he’d grab my trousers and use them to climb to his feet. Once there he’d give me a big satisfied smile and lift up his arms to be picked up. I guess there are better ways of being welcomed home but I’m struggling to think of any.

I felt I fully understood Marty’s reluctance to walk as it seemed very like my attitude to snowboarding; I’d learnt to ski, finally got good at it, and now everyone is saying I need to start all over again and learn to snowboard! Why? I like skiing, I like going down black runs as fast as I can. Why do I want to risk pain and injury trying to get down a mountain on an ironing board?

Whatever the reason, Marty reached the grand old age of 14 months before deciding that bipedalism was the future. Sadly the adage “You need to learn to walk before you run” was entirely lost on him. As far as Marty was concerned the only advantage of walking was the extra speed it offered, and so from the very beginning he combined walking with jogging and jumping.

This is all very impressive and we are immensely proud of him. The only downside is that he still tries to overcome a loss of balance by running faster. Sometimes this works, usually it doesn’t. The end result is that barely a day’s gone by when he hasn’t been sporting at least one bruise on his forehead.

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