For the last 13-14 months, I've had the pleasure of living with a baby and watching him grow. There have been lots of little lessons along the way, as I've watched him continually develop and grow from month to month. However, it's been really eye opening for me in the last couple of months, as I've watched him learn to walk. He took his first steps on his first birthday. If he thought about it, he wouldn't think he could walk. However, as he walked between his mother and me, then his mother and father, he'd be so excited about the person that he was going to, that his body just took over and he'd make it.
After his first steps, I expected him to be off and running. I took off for a week to attend a convention in Seattle just a few days after his birthday. I figured that although he hadn't yet realized he could walk, by the time I came home in a week, he would be off and running. Maybe he'd walk to me when I got back in town, or so I thought.
Wrong! If you're a parent, you already know it doesn't happen that fast. Never having been a parent, I'm learning what it's really like as an "old lady"! (said tongue in cheek) As he spent the next couple of months mastering the walking, it was very instructive to me to watch his progress and how he worked through different stages.
At first, he would have his arms shoulder high to keep himself balanced, and heaven forbid there was anything at all on the floor, no matter how small....he would fall. Eventually over time he learned how to keep his balance and the arms finally came down. Unfortunately, he still fell over any little thing on the floor, especially the riser between the kitchen and the living room. All of a sudden, I noticed, he wasn't falling anymore when he went over the riser, nor over the little obstacles. He was learning how to balance. I also noticed that though he'd initially learned to walk, he didn't know how to get up. He'd crawl to the next object that he could use to get himself up and off he'd go again. He had a lot of failures, especially in the beginning. It took a lot of time and a lot of perseverance.
If you compared his walking to many of the things that we attempt to do. How often do we just simply say, "I can't" and don't even try? The most frustrating student I ever had were the ones who refused to try, and simply said, "I can't", no matter how many times and ways I tried to show them they could. Thankfully the babies haven't acquired the "learned helplessness" I've seen in some students, as a teacher. The night he took his first steps, if he thought about it, he would think he couldn't and not try. However, he had his eyes on the face of a loved one and wanted to go as we encouraged him on. Even once he had done it, he didn't master it, or even fully realized what he could do. He fell a lot. His attempts were few at first, but as he practiced, over time, the attempts increased. Really, he'd probably walked a hundred times and he was still falling and somewhat wobbly; but still, he never gave up. How many of us quit after trying a few times and failing a few times? Do we keep trying and trying and appreciating the small gains? Really, the gains were not quick and immediate by any means, but they were there. I could see them, even though I'm sure he couldn't. He just had faith that he could eventually walk, and kept on going
Babies see people walk and want to walk. No matter how often they fall, how long it takes them to get better at balancing, getting up, or just not falling if they walk over a book or something; they keep trying. They've not been taught to think in terms of failure. They just see what they want, realize they can do something and keep trying and trying. Each of us had to have had perseverance at some point in our lives in order to walk. That's just one example. There are many other skills that we learn on our way from babyhood to growing up. We didn't just wake up and say, oh, I've developed enough to keep my balance and walk, and master it. We failed, and we failed a lot...we never gave up.
I think somehow we forget the lessons and learn how to think, "I can't" or "I'll never get it", or "I'll never be as good as so and so" or various other ways to talk ourselves out of trying new things in our life.
It's also been interesting in watching this little baby, that he takes his clue on how to think from us. One day, I actually fell down the stairs, while I was holding him. Thankfully, we go in slow motions during emergencies, and I was able to get my hand out to hold his head in a way that his head wouldn't hit the floor, but if anything did it was my hand. When we fell, oh my, it hurt me, but all I could see was his face looking at me in surprise. He didn't know what to think. When all I did was tell him reassuringly in a soothing voice, with a smile on my face, "It's OK Finn, you didn't hit your head", he was fine and didn't get upset at all. I told him this accident was OK, so no crying or upset happened. I remember another time he bit me pretty hard in the stomache without realizing it and I reacted in pain saying , "OW!" and pushed his head away. He saw my reaction and immediately started crying, because my reaction upset him. That was minor compared to falling down the stairs!
Through some of these experiences with him in various situations, I really began to realize how he looked to me for how to react or interpret things. He doesn't know. If something happens, and I take it in good stride, so does he. If I don't, neither does he. It kind of hits home the point to me that we can control how we react. We aren't negative and upset because of a situation; but rather because of how we have chosen to react. Most of these reactions are so automatic, we don't realize we are making a choice and do have control. Just like a baby looks to us to learn how to perceive the world, we can consciously look inward and choose other ways to react.
When I fell down the stairs, I chose to react in a soothing calming manner just for Finn's sake. Had I not had him in my arms, my reaction would have been totally different. If I can control my emotions and reactions to be positive ones for him, why can't I do it for myself. Truth be told, I can. My goal right now, is to continue to look to this little baby in my life and continue to learn the lessons to help me evolve and grow as I deal with life's obstacles little and big.
Just because I'm writing about Finn, I'll play the doting great aunt and share some photos. Here he is, at 8 months, wearing the bow from his big sister's birthday presents on her 4th birthday!
I have lots of photos of him sleeping in my arms. He loves to come downstairs to my area of the house and take his naps with me. I treasure the moments. Holding him and looking at his sweet face, makes me live in the "Now" and treasure the moments.
He is so tickled in this little picture that he has a little chair that fits him! I managed to catch him for just a brief moment of delight, before he was off and running again!
Here he is the evening of his first birthday, enjoying his cake. This picture was taken before he took his first steps between me and his mom.