Baby Steps: Drunken Sailor

Oscar walking

Oscar, my little drunken sailor 🙂

Oscar is getting stronger everyday with his newfound passion: extreme toddling. He still uses the cart some, but mainly for the hilarious thrill of running it into the backs of mommy and daddy’s legs or making the dogs run for cover. More often, he’s walking.

Here’s what walking looks like right now. He strides somewhat bowlegged, swaying side to side like he’s got sea legs or has had one sippy cup too many. His arms are upraised for balance, but it looks like more of a celebratory ‘huzzah” type gesture. Indeed, his enthusiasm and joy at his progress is infectious. He catches himself mid-stumble, sways on his tiptoes, then returns to his peerless toddling form and continues, halting and swaying, ever onward.

He looks like a very small, very cute drunken sailor.

He also looks disconcertingly like Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here—around 2:15, that’s what Oscar’s walking looks like), especially when his arms are upraised. It kills me. Damon doesn’t get the joke, but he doesn’t share my passion for musicals. Meh.

I keep trying to get a good picture, but all I ever manage to capture is a blur of movement. My only excuse is that he’s a very fast-moving drunken sailor / Tevye.

Baby Steps: Walking Tall

With the proper start of spring came Oscar’s first steps. He’d been walking while holding on to things for a while already, but by “first steps,” I mean he’s walking on his own, unassisted by holding on to anything. He is giddy with the accomplishment.

Weekday evenings go like this. We get home. He protests loudly when I put him in his playpen (so I can let the dogs out). I hear the song “Don’t Fence Me In” in my head as the soundtrack to his complaints. I bring the dogs back in, feed them, and liberate Oscar from his babycage playpen.

Oscar and his walker

Oscar pushing his walker (and wondering why I’m in his way *grin*)

While I prep dinner, little man sets about his work. He grabs his walker—it’s like taking a taxi for a new toddler—and zooms through the living room, through the dining room, into the kitchen… and into the back of my legs, often enough. There he stops, grabs the hem of my shirt or scarf, walks around me on tiptoes, grinning up and gleaming with pride. He lets go of my hem, toddles across the kitchen floor, arms outstretched for balance, laughing with raucous glee at his success and sheer daredevilry (is that a word?).

With each step, he laughs harder, till by step eight or nine he’s doubled over and falls down to his knees. He looks up at me again, bright-eyed, then crawls or walks back to his walker, and off he zooms for another cab ride around the house.

Repeat ad infinitum.

We take a break for dinner, then it’s immediately back to the races. He doesn’t even have time for the stairs anymore. Stairs are so two-months-ago. No, now it’s all about the perambulation. He doesn’t even stop for the dogs, poor things—they do their best to stay out of his way.

By seven o’clock, he’s tiring out but far from slowing down. Still zooming and testing and walking and testing in his constant toddler circuit training course. I think he would probably keep going till he just passed out on the floor, legs twitching, but when he starts stumbling and complaining more, Damon and I nod to each other that it’s time to intervene and put him to bed.

I carry him upstairs, and he complains all the way, reaching back, wanting to movemovemove! But by the time he hits the changing table, the thumb’s in his mouth, he’s rubbing his eyes, and his giggles are interrupted here and there with monstrous, jaw-cracking yawns. I take off his shoes (if they even lasted this long) and find his feet steaming hot and damp with sweat. I pull his socks as far as they’ll go before popping off of his feet—this always makes him laugh—and as the cool air hits the hot, damp skin of his feet, he slaps them against the end of the changing table as if to congratulate them on a job well done, flexes his toes, and grins up at me.

I love the punctuation of those smiles, each one marking a beat, an acknowledgment that passes between us. I used to measure out our time together in feedings. But now? Now I measure it in those smiles.

And lots (and lots and lots) of baby steps.

Baby Steps: Connecting the Dots

I’ve already told you about Oscar climbing the stairs. That began before he was even standing on his own. Now he’s going from seated to standing and vice versa without holding onto anything. But still not actually walking.

Well, he’s kind of walking. He’ll walk while holding on to our fingers, his little legs moving faster than his upper body can keep up so he reminds me of an Oscar version of the Roadrunner cartoon, accompanied by raucous laughter and the occasional crunch, splat, or boom.

Oscar and Daddy

Oscar and Daddy

More and more often, though, he’s connecting the dots. He’ll stand up, touch his fingertips to the edge of the coffee table, and walk as far as his arm’s reach will allow. He then drops his arm, pausing for a moment to stand proudly on his own, and then he reaches out for the next landmark—the edge of the couch, the foot of the stairs, the rocker, the toy box: connecting the dots.

When he first started to pull himself up to stand at each of these spots, he would look at me with pride at his accomplishment. Now, that look comes to me in the pauses between, those breaths where he is standing on his own, suspended by his own will. He seems exhilarated, sometimes making his sound of approval, “Mmmm,” before moving on with careful concentration.

His is a gentle determination. He is so focused and diligent but never moves too far outside his comfort zone but always pausing a little longer, reaching a little farther, stepping a little faster or wider. Damon and I are the ones who want to test him—we’re so impatient—but he’s right to take his time. He’s learning to walk! Something he’s never done, at least in this life.

I think about how I approach new challenges and lessons, with a tendency to be all in, high expectations, never wanting to mess up but wanting to have it right the first time—it’s a ticking bomb. Therapy has taught me that expectations are often just pre-meditated disappointment. And it’s okay to dive head-first into something new, and it’s okay to want to get it right the first time, but rarely do those two approaches correlate—which brings me back to disappointment. And impatience.

I’ve seem children that started walking as soon as possible, throwing themselves into it with gleeful (and sometimes tearful) abandon, proving that walking is an act of sustained and suspended falling, and coming up with the black-and-bruises to wear as badges of that learning curve. Oscar seems to be of the more cautious variety, carefully exploring each moment, breathing into each position, slowly extending the borders of his comfort and confidence. It is methodical. And there is a real, deep joy in the process for him.

You want to learn mindfulness? Come over to my house. Oscar is teaching us about connecting the dots. This kid, this little joy-boy—we have so much to learn.

Baby Steps: Climbing the Stairs

Climbing the stairsThis is a common scene at our house these days.

It started about a month ago. Oscar had been getting really into the “put-and-get” game—getting the dog’s bone away from Xena, putting the dog’s bone in the toy box, putting his sippy cup in the grocery bag, getting everything off the coffee table. Put-and-get. On this particular occasion, he had gotten a remote control and was putting it various places: on the floor, in the toy box, in the dog bed. And then, he put it on the step. It made a satisfying clack-thwack sound, so he put it harder, up on the second step. This added a pleasing bit of ricochet to the sound, so he put it again, and again, and before either of us knew it, he had climbed up four steps and proceeded to climb up to the first landing.

Since then, it’s become a bit of a ritual exercise for him. At first, it was strictly part of the put-and-get game, but then it became just about the climb itself. Two Sundays, he climbed the entire staircase about a dozen times over the course of the day. That Monday, Damon stayed home with Oscar and noticed that his climbing technique was changing—he’s no longer pausing with both feet on each step. Instead, his lower leg is leapfrogging straight up to the next step in one fluid motion. It’s a sight to behold.

Oscar is so proud of himself every time he gets to the top of the stairs, each time faster than the previous; he just grins and laughs maniacally as he does his victory lap around the upstairs rooms, crawling at break-neck speeds. Ha! I see his confidence growing, his willpower and concentration redoubling. He’s started standing up on his own, without holding on to anything. He will be walking any day now, at which point my heart will break due to this weird cocktail of pride and wistfulness that he’ll be a toddler—not a baby anymore.

It’s so hard to keep up. He’s so gung-ho about practicing, getting stronger, repeating, getting faster, that play time now consists largely him darting about and me constantly orbiting, staying out of his way but being close in case he falls, to either catch him or kiss his bumps.

Climbing the stairsIt’s a weird place to live, after spending so long with him content to be in my arms. He still wants me close, wants to be held if I’m cooking or cleaning or working on something so he can see what I see. He still reaches out to me if he’s hurt or sleepy, to cuddle and receive comfort. But he’s hungry for experience. He doesn’t want me to be too close for too long. A moment, a sweet moment, and then he’s off, arching toward the floor, reaching for a toy, lunging toward the cat.

He pushes himself up one more step. I breathe. I stay a couple steps below, not touching him but with hands outstretched, ready should he need me. Sometimes he looks back over his shoulder to see if I’m there, and I say, “Yes, I’m here. I’ve got you.” Reassured, he climbs another step, and another, and another.

When he reaches for me, I pull him close, breathe in the scent of his hair, whisper-sing to him our little songs. My heart aches with swelling, with still being “home base.” Then I let him go again.

And I guess that’s where I live right now: arms open to embrace, arms open to release. Arms open.