In early November on my visit to Downtown Abbey, Lady Baby was a few days into her new job as a crawling investigator. For two days we ignored the toy boxes in the living room, as I followed her hands-and-knees progress around the house. But on the third day she figured out how to clutch adult hands and cruise upright – a position she seemed to prefer!
Selma Freiberg wrote “The Magic Years” a long time ago – but her description of a child’s “periods of equilibrium” exactly named Lady Baby’s equanimity this visit.
Her teeth, six so far, are not only through – they are functional. She picks up with her fingers bits of avocado or cheese or Os – puffy circles that seem made of vegetables and air. She captures each one between her front teeth and carefully crunches.
She varies the volume of her concentration hmmmm as she eats, and leans over companionably when I sit next to her at breakfast. While I offer her a spoonful of oatmeal and take a bite of my own, she holds my wrist and investigates rings, watch, bracelet, humming all the while.
The humming sound must have to do with language, she does it as she “reads” books. Approaching an adult bookshelf, Lady Baby pulls out a volume, lowers herself, sits, and, while humming nearly an ohm sound, opens the book’s cover, and concentrates on turning pages. Then she selects another.
Real words come sometimes. She said “book” twice one morning to her mother. And to the surprise of all of us – while looking at grandpa – said “grandpa” twice.
She’s learned that we respond to her shiver of delight – a look of glee that tenses jaw and arms as she lifts them and smiles – and we react with the same movement. The shivers seem to be excitement – spotting her mom, a cat, the dog, or shoes. To get a shoe in hand with buckles and laces is a coup!
Crawling is functional, but guided walking was the big thrill – round and round the downstairs of Downtown Abbey – a circular route, not at the level of a carried baby, or the low down reach of a crawler, but a new height. She stretches one hand out for cabinet handles and drawer pulls, but mostly keeps moving. Walking fast, walking slow, delighting in direction decisions, executing U-turns. Every morning, and after each nap, we started all over again.
A very particular right foot first and straight out lurch-step gave way in a couple of days to an efficient right foot/left foot rhythm. She practiced periods of supported standing – reading books while leaning against a footstool between adult knees, or listening to cheerful songs her mom turned on for us – her little knees bending in time to the music.
It’s a whole new world!