One of the cool things about bringing up a little one is you’re reminded of who we all are as humans, before the social expectations and self-inflicted neuroses kick in.
And while I teach Bailey how to eat with a fork, and kick a ball, and say his first words, he’s teaching me a few life lessons as well:
1. Go at your own pace (and stop comparing)
The ‘achieve X by Y’ list is bad enough as an adult, but for little ones?! Every MONTH there are a whole bunch of things they’re supposed to have achieved. At Bailey’s developmental check-up last week, I learned that an ‘ideal’ 20 month old should apparently be speaking 3-word sentences, not bump into things, hardly spill food anymore, and know to find and stand on a chair / box to reach stuff. Well, let’s just say Bailey likes to take his time.
There are days when I can’t help but compare him to all the kids that seem to be months ahead of him. And there are days when I feel so very proud that our little bean has come so very far since his very scary open heart-surgery at 3 weeks.
Bailey, of course, is blissfully oblivious to all this. He didn’t care when he was the only baby in the playgroup not walking. He doesn’t care that he’s teeny-tiny and has a massive scar on his chest. He doesn’t beat himself up for being ‘behind’. In fact, he’s pretty smug with himself (see #2)!
2. Self-applause is healthy
Bailey has a very healthy capacity for self-appreciation. He would be an excellent role-model for Bridget’s ‘Love Yourself’ Project! When he has achieved something, however small, he will stop whatever he’s doing, turn to everyone in the room, and applaud himself for his accomplishment. Like when he first got the hang of his little push-cart, he’d sometimes stop 3 times before he got to the other end of the room to give himself a little clap!
Now, shouldn’t we all be doing that more often? Even if it’s just in our heads… So often we just move on to the next thing, or tag on a ‘but…’ (‘…I should have done it sooner / better / faster…’ etc), without pausing to celebrate our little win. Which means we lose out on that feel-good buzz of a well-stimulated reward system.
3. Keep at it, you’ll get there in the end.
I sometimes think about what it would be like to be Bailey at my age. If it was taking me ‘forever’ to walk (bear in mind, a month in a baby’s life is like a year in an adult’s life…), and everybody else seemed to have it down, I might get very fed-up and disheartened and conclude that walking clearly isn’t for me. I’d probably stop going to playgroup because I’d just be reminded of my terrible failing.
Bailey, on the other hand, was perfectly content to crawl and cruise for as long as he liked. I’d YouTube ‘how to get your baby to walk’ videos, and tried all sorts of tricks and shenanigans, but our little cruiser wouldn’t be rushed.
Until one day, out of the blue, he stood up. And then he took a couple steps. And he fell on his bum a gazillion times, and he’d sometimes cry from frustration, but he’d never stop. He’d just keep getting up, obsessively. And so, 3 weeks later, we have a fully-fledged toddler, whose fumbled and bumbled (and clapped!) his way to success.
I suppose it’s a matter of letting go of all the ‘shoulds’. We should be achieving this, we shouldn’t be feeling that… Babies don’t really think in terms of ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t’. It’s more a matter of what they want, and what they can get away with! Not that we should all be impulsive, reckless babies, but there’s something to say for unapologetically accepting and appreciating ourselves for who we are.