Monday, February 18, 2008

Lift off

A week and a day ago, le Petit finally figured out crawling.
We were visiting Troyes on our way back from Alsace (more on Alsace coming soon, I promise), and we spread a large beach towel on the floor of the bedroom. Dad, Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, and Aunt G all took turns encouraging him as he got up on all fours and tentatively lurched and hopped forward.

Then, you could almost see the proverbial light bulb appear as he suddenly understood how to coordinate arms and legs. His first floor crossings were slow but determined. He had a goal, and he had the wild-eyed look of a conquistador blazing through the jungle in search of gold as he inched across the towel to reach a plastic bag of Huggies. Once reached, he merrily slapped and grabbed at it with both hands before it magically disappeared. He thus discovered the frustrating truth of crawling: he may be mobile, but he's not as fast as Mom and Dad (yet).

By the next day, he'd already gained assurance and speed. It was as if he'd dreamed of crawling all night and woke up with a new, perfected method. He still isn't all grace and finely-tuned acceleration, however. He has the cadence of Godzilla taking on Tokyo, and undoubtedly, on a proportionally reduced scale, the same destructive power. Babyproofing is underway here at Chez Petit, but any security measures we take at the moment won't replace our constant vigilance. Le Petit tires quickly and any hard surface, even the floor, is dangerous when he starts wobbling with exhaustion.

After cheering him on for weeks, I am ambivalent about this advancement. He seems so tiny, and his newly-discovered self-propulsion opens up a whole new scary world to him. I can tell by observing him that this leap isn't just about mobility. He sees the world in a different way. Suddenly things that were on an unnoticed periphery are the focus of his attention. He's scanning the limits of what he knows, trying desperately to explore beyond them.

I realize now that the concept of horizon only occurs to us through movement. The same pull to the unknown that leads our species to Everest or the Antarctic or the moon is pushing le Petit to discover every corner of his bedroom, even and especially the marvels Mom has deemed dangerous: the wastebasket, the base of the recliner, the narrow space between his crib and the floor. It was only when he learned he could move that he dared contemplate the frontier.

I look at him crawling determinedly, so tiny yet so willful, and I know that this is the beginning of his inevitable journey away from me. I'm so proud of him, but I'm also so scared.

Le Petit, not one to rest on his laurels, has already started eying the next step: moving up. Even if pushing to his feet is just the vaguest of goals to him now, I can see the idea forming in his head daily. If only... there was a way... to reach that... if only...

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