Learning to Fly

17 10 2013

It’s a matter of months, not years, and maybe more like weeks or days, until this smallest child warrants her first trip to the ER, not because we beat her (not even on her loudest, most persistently yelly nights–or when we turn around to find her back in the cat-bowls, splashing water all over the kitchen floor). So far it’s just goose-eggs and bruises, but she gets more daring by the day. It’s not enough to crawl up the stairs–she wants to go up them standing, and down again, despite each being as high as her waist. It’s not enough to push the little clicking push-cart while walking–she wants to ride half-in and half-out with a hand on the handle and a foot on the ground like a scooter. Did I mention she’s not yet 13 months old?  The physicality must come from her father–the rugby player who broke his back and tried to keep playing–because it’s not from me.  I was a cautious child, much more like her brother C, who was three before he would reluctantly engage in these same playground activities–the big slide, and climbing back up it, the hanging off of any bar, the wedging her feet into the bars to climb just an inch higher from anywhere at all; I was twelve before I remember standing high up on the edge of anything with the wind in my face, reveling in the sensation of being tall and lifted into the big of the world.  Like him, I was full of things to say, sassy too-grown-up intonation, early-emergent sarcasm, but uneasy with the changing balance-points required for stairs and bicycles.

So in the walk-or-talk-first roulette, little E definitely rolled “walk” instead–and just this week seems to also be getting the hang of crawling, at least crawling through the playground tube to follow Andrew, maybe exactly because I had just told him that she wouldn’t. But that doesn’t mean she isn’t paying attention to language. She understands a lot of what we say, and can execute simple commands (“go find your doll” or “bring me your shoes,” for example), and she does say “ball” on occasion, but primarily she communicates by speaking cat. If she sees one, “maow,” which was first “breow,” then “meow,” and has now been trademarked without the “e.” But also if I say “cat” or “kitty,” or if someone else says it, or if she sees a sketch or cartoon of one (or a lion, or a leopard, or a confusingly similar animal like an otter).

Sentences will come soon enough, to give hue and specificity to the emphatic-squee pose, the ranting penguin pose, the curl of hands around each other and against her cheeks and grinning teeth when Daddy smiles at her and crushes her with shyness, the trill of rage (and we wonder, will words lead her to stop trilling?). We’ll be losing something when they come–her body language is brilliantly articulate, and there is no sound I find as charming on Earth as her “ooooooh,” which is sort of like uh-oh, only without the “uh,” and not reserved for things that happen by accident. (It’s this, and not her saying “Mummy,” because she doesn’t. When I prompt her to, she grins her impish little crooked grin and says “Maow,” like she’s talking to the cats, because she’s a joker–making clear that she doesn’t need words to play with language. She does say “muh muh muh muh muh!” but as far as context indicates, that doesn’t mean me so much as “gimmee” whatever she’s gesturing towards. It’s just circumstantial correspondence that “Muh-muh” is always the one there to do the gimmee-ing.)

But whatever daredevil mad trick bloodies which of her tiny limbs first, before she can really even speak, there’s no doubt more will follow, because this is a child who throws herself bodily at the world. “She came out fast, didn’t she?” not-exactly-asked my friend Emily. “You can tell–she had somewhere to be.” And she does. (Sway faster, rock faster, move faster, be held upright, be walked, walk with me, let me walk, let me run, let me go.) Always. It’s just a matter of time until she the arrival at one of those places lands one of her baby limbs in a cast. I get the feeling, though, that she’s not going to be the kind of baby to really mind that, either. I knew a kid when I was a kid–the youngest brother of one of my younger brother’s friends–who’d broken both arms by the time he was two. You want to recoil in horror and cry child abuse, or at least neglect, but it was just a daredevil tendency, acted out by the youngest of I think six, who was suffused with physical confidence long before he had the dexterity to control what happened after he leaped into which ever situation had called out to him this time. Both arm-breaks had the same cause: skateboarding. If we had a skateboard, E would be following in his footsteps–right to the ER. As-is, see above re: the push-cart (fortunately, it’s no longer the 80s and skateboards aren’t as prolific, so she’s only seen scooters with handles; this is probably the only reason we haven’t had our first cast or stitch already).

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