Thursday, April 3, 2014

Walking Is a Process

My 17-month-old daughter Eve is not walking yet.  As an infant, she would not put weight on her legs, as infants normally do with ease, and until her first birthday she spent most of her hours in a sitting position because she didn't know how to do anything else.  Once we figured out what was hindering her from movement (low muscle tone in her legs and feet) and got help from a physical therapist to strengthen her leg muscles, we saw an amazing transformation.  She began to crawl almost immediately and in the past three months has progressed to the very tip of the final frontier - walking without assistance.  She's almost there, but not yet.

My husband and I have discussed at various times what an accomplishment walking is.  Such an amazing coordination of brain activity and muscle movement.  Our first child started to walk without any assistance from us, and so we took that milestone for granted.  However, working with our daughter has revealed some of the complexities of developmental milestones,  and we now understand that walking is really the culmination of a long process.  Before they walk, a child must (in many cases) crawl, kneel, learn to pull one leg up and bring themselves to a standing position, learn to pick up their feet and side-step along objects, maintain their balance, and finally, WALK!

I've been inspired by Eve's accomplishments in recent weeks. And I've drawn all kinds of helpful parallels between my daughter's journey and my own.  Here are three of them.

Fear hinders movement. 
At times, Eve was physically capable of performing a movement before she was mentally or even emotionally ready to do it.  So we had to do some coaxing and motivating to get her to attempt it, and then we had to help her do each step repeatedly until the action became part of her brain and muscle memories.  I've thought about points in my life where I have needed to do or say something new - repeatedly - to gain confidence and create a fresh memory that overrides the fearful one.  (Public speaking is just one example.)

If the big goal seems insurmountable, start with baby steps.
I've already written about all the little steps a child needs to take before they can walk.  So it is with me, an adult.  Big changes intimidate me.  But I don't want to avoid them, or avoid the adventure and growth and perspective that come with change.  Breaking down the big goal breaks down the fear too.

Movement, however small, is progress.
When I'm afraid or overwhelmed, something funny happens.  I don't move.  I get lost in thought.  Procrastinate.  I've been amazed to discover in recent months that sometimes the best way to get unstuck is to move, be it a walk around the block or tackling an item on my to-do list, even if the movement has nothing to do with the issue at hand.  It's forward motion, and it helps the mental fog to dissipate.  And Eve...well...if you could see how much we rejoiced over the smallest movement, you would know that her little movements represented progress!

The day my daughter walks will be glorious.  I'm sure I'll shed some tears.  But today I'm celebrating all the little accomplishments that will help her to get there.

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