My daughter is gifted with a natural athleticism and physical coordination that has nothing to do with me. These are inherited traits, and I met her the morning after she was born. It’s when I met her birth mother and two half-sisters, too. They’re all very tall with extremely athletic builds. That could be said of exactly none of the people in my family.
It was clear pretty early on that A was strong and coordinated, with excellent balance. Now she’s three. And a highly confident three.
When she was one and still crawling, we sat on a blanket in a park with a friend. A crawled off, turning back to see me from time to time. I’d smile and wave and she’d continue crawling away. I was thrilled and so was my friend, another family therapist in training. Part of me cringed at the thought of what my daughter was crawling over and past. But I had an unobstructed view of her and the park was mostly empty. The truth is, I was dying to see how far she got. At one point, passersby saw this little African American baby crawling by herself and nervously looked around for her mother. Seeing only two white women seated on the grass in the distance, they grew alarmed. I waved and gestured wildly that she was with me, and that I saw her, and it was okay.
By not hovering over my daughter, I was letting her know that I trusted her and I knew she was competent enough to find her way back. And A was letting me know how capable she thought she was. Extremely capable, as it turns out. After a while, I called her back with a cheery voice. She turned around and crawled directly back, lay down, and put her head in my lap.
Like all babies, she wants to master new physical skills, to climb and conquer. But my girl’s not reckless. She meets all challenges with cautious, quiet determination. The first time she encounters a tricky ladder or rock wall, she’ll often say she’s not ready to try it yet. I never push.
She hasn’t reached the toddler milestones any earlier than other kids. She didn’t take her first step until she was 16 months. I did nothing to nudge her along in any way. I knew she’d walk when she was ready.
At two, she crawled out of our hammock as it was moving. We’d been in there together, swaying in the afternoon breeze of a perfect Southern California day. I’m not sure why she decided to exit the hammock at that exact time, but she began to lower her legs over the edge. I suspect a lot of moms would have vetoed her idea, and they’d be smart to. But I was curious if she could stick the landing. She held onto my arm until the hammock had swung to the highest point, dropped lightly onto both feet, then took a step back out of the path of the swinging hammock. It was masterful. I yelped in amazement, but she didn’t look surprised at all. She crawled right back into the hammock, which was still swinging.