Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Opal has preferred to be vertical for a few months now.

She fell deeply in love with her Johnny-Jump-Up-Seat the very first time she experienced the joys of harnessed bouncing and she continues to squeal like a madbaby as she pushes up from the earth, twirls and swings and slingshots herself all over the place like she's made an Olympic sport of it.
She also loves the Exer-saucer, another apparatus that holds her vertically while she practices the fine art of standing.
If you pick her up, she stiffens her legs so you have no choice but to hold her under the pits as she uses your arm muscles as unsuspecting braces as she bucks and bumps off of whatever is underneath her little feet while maintaining eye-contact with whomever is holding her, drool puddling on her chin and heading in slow rivers downwards, giggling and gummily grinning.

It is understandable for any adult to want to maintain this sort of maniacally blissful response in a wee one, parents included. Therefore, Opal has spent the last few months, by and large, cultivating the stand-up/sit-up position. Rarely was she spending her time horizontal anymore. It had become a position that rendered a lukewarm response, at best, where she quickly wound up hollering for assistance.
Every time I delivered Opal-updates that relayed information about our vertical-loving baby, I consistently heard well she may just skip crawling all together! as if that was something to be proud of. As if she were somehow exceptional in her ability to simply skip an entire developmental step.

Until I ran into a friend, Abby, in the produce section of Whole Foods about a week ago. Her gorgeous year-old son watched us as he vacillated between curiosity and dumping sweet potatoes from a bag as he sat in the seat of the cart.
I gave Abby the Cliff's Notes update on Opal I'd gotten so accustomed to giving and her face became very serious. Oh, she said, you may really want to encourage her to crawl. She went on about how they learn so so much during this developmental phase on the floor: problem solving, deciphering left and right, the body-mind connection as a whole. Abby is a fellow body-worker (I am a massage therapist and polarity therapist) and I value her insights greatly. She got me to thinking

When I got home that afternoon, I pulled Opal's developmental books from the shelf and sifted through them, re-finding what I remembered reading before. They all describe a typical baby's development very clearly. Ie, they roll, they sit up, they crawl, and so on. The books also describe ways to encourage these desired milestones. But nowhere did I find anything on the detriments of skipping a stage. So, it hadn't even occurred to me to do anything different than support Opal in what she was naturally drawn to.

That afternoon, as an experiment, we decided to cut back on Opal's time in the vertical position, to backtrack a bit, and really encourage her with floor-play for the foreseeable future.

And in the short time since then, her horizontal skills have absolutely exploded. Previously, she would tentatively roll from back to front, as if uncertain of the outcome of such a bold action. Yesterday, she did a triple-roll, belly-to-back-to-belly, grabbed my shoe and rolled to her back to examine it before it even occurred to me what was happening! She triple and quadruple-rolls from the blanket we lie down for her, making headway on the real carpet (gasp!) and winding up covered in doghair (note to self to increase the vacuuming). She sets her sights on a toy and goes after it with fearless abandon, pulling the blanket towards her, pulling, scootching, rolling herself to her target. Last night when I went in to check on her, I found her not only having rotated her body 180 degrees in her crib, but also lying on her belly, fast asleep!
It's as if she is becoming re-acquainted with the hands-on floor-world around her, collecting a whole new list of successes as she navigates, baby-pride beaming from her face.

Now, I don't imagine any huge developmental detriments would have occurred if I'd never run into Abby that fateful afternoon, and if Opal indeed continued on the path of vertical-living. But all shoulds aside, what has really dawned on me is how automatic it is to want to leap forward, to hurry up to the next thing. It's so easy to feel that progress is good and quick progress is even better.

Things are going plenty fast for me as it is. Opal will be vertical soon enough and for the rest of her living, breathing life (god-willing). I appreciate having the opportunity, at least on this occasion, to pull back on the reigns a bit and savor exactly where we are.

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