My granddaughter was unable to walk, but I found that to be fairly typical among newborns and no one seemed alarmed. For many month-long days, all Zoe learned to do was cry, eat, and sleep (not with any specific order or timing). Then, with no coaxing, she learned to do a baby-wiggle which developed into a squirm and began evolving into an awkward slither once she learned to flip onto her belly and see the world differently.
As muscles developed and limbs were discovered she found that crawling was a faster and more efficient way of getting from one place to another. At this point in a child’s life, it seems universal that parents feel it necessary to fulfill some unwritten obligation to teach the baby how to walk and thus they bring on all the standing and holding, coaching and coaxing, all the plastic confabulations of tubes on wheels with nets of dangling feet.
One day Zoe was sitting in the living room floor next to a large empty box that once contained a microwave oven. She reached up, grasped the top of this box, and pulled herself erect into a standing position. Then, without fanfare or announcement, this baby started pushing the box across the floor while squealing with delight.
Everyone was ecstatic that this clever, autodidactic child was teaching herself to walk. Personally, I thought she was simply learning that a box can slide and that she could push it – walking was just a side effect that she is not even aware of learning. But Grandpas love their heroes and love watching them discover their superpowers.
The following weeks were filled with stuttering attempts without the box – the scuff-scuff-whomp, scuff-scuff-whomp, of continuing falls in failure, but she did not yet have a prideful ego that could be bruised. Long past the time any adult would have shouted in frustration, “I’ll never learn how to walk!” and without any doubt or fear, she kept getting back up to try again. There was no goal or reward waiting and no idea what completion would be. In fact, a baby does not even know the word ‘walk’ or have a concept of what it means. She simply wanted to get from one place to another. She persevered in following her natural instincts to find the way.
These days I have a vision of Zoe, like Moses, coming down from the mountain with the great wisdom she has learned – never needing to give a thought about walking because it is now a part of her. I envision her walking into a classroom, a living room, or through a park as being everything she is becoming.
Following our natural instincts are how we learn to love, feel empathy and compassion, and how to help one another, if we can hang onto the child-like innocence of discovery, wonder, and perseverance. We old people get kind of dopy about our grands, but I think everyone feels that all the world’s children are grand and we love how the hope in their eyes gives us hope.