Monday, September 22, 2014
Stand Up And Be Counted
Kiley is now nine months old. That is a really significant milestone. Up until now she had lived most of her life inside the womb - warm and dark, cozy and safe, not a whole lot of demands or expectations, with Mom so close that they were literally attached to each other. From now on, however, for the rest of her life, most of that life will have been spent on the outside, in the wide world – cold and bright, uncertain and perilous, with increasing demands and expectations as she grows, separate from everyone including Mom. That's a big change to have to cope with, but we all did it and it must not have been too traumatic since none of us even remember it except, perhaps, on a subconscious, emotional level. Kiley seems happy enough.
Kiley managed to reach another milestone recently, one that is essential to her ability to live in the wide world she now finds herself in. She has been crawling for sometime now and doing a good job of it. She's everywhere, into everything, and up to no good. Fast too, put her down and she's off like a shot. So I have to watch her and make sure she stays out of trouble. But that is nothing compared to the trouble she is about to get into because over the past couple of weeks, as expected, she has learned to stand and is beginning to walk. What a big girl! Generally, she still has to hold on to things when she walks, but she is already managing a few steps unsupported by anything but her own two feet. And she's doing that more and more often. Her legs are short and chubby but strong. I coax her with outstretched hands to walk to me, which she does with a few uncertain steps before falling into my arms – a moment of joy for both of us. It won't be long now until she's careening around the house with little skill but much determination, a true "toddler". Nothing will stop her now.
The importance of walking can't be overstated. It's the way we get around in the world. And the way we humans do it is one of the things that set us apart from the other animals. (There are a lot of things about us that are unique in the animal world. We are strange creatures.) Unlike any other animal, we walk upright on two legs (I know birds walk on two legs but they don't stand erect and it's usually more of a hop than a walk, kangaroos too.) The advantages of standing and walking on two legs are obvious. It gives us the ability to see things at a distance at all times (our eyes are five feet off the ground). It limits our exposure to the sun (we have to lie down to get a good tan). It frees up our hands to do other things like carrying and throwing - no other animal can throw with speed and accuracy, a uniquely human ability and a distinct physical advantage over all other creatures. Kiley is already beginning to throw things, not with any speed and certainly not with any accuracy but already far better than any dog, cat, fish or bird ever will.
The importance we, ourselves, place on our unique posture is illustrated by the phrases in our language that reflect it – "I'm taking a stand " - "I won't stand for it" - "Stand up to your enemies" – "I can't stand it" – "Stand and deliver" – "She's awfully stand-offish". Like flying to a bird or swimming to a fish, walking upright is one of the things that make us what we are. Maybe that is why we feel so proud of our children when they begin to do it. We actually get excited over it. I know I was excited when I first saw Kiley doing it and I'm not even her mother. Her mother and I talk about it in excited tones. We're absolutely thrilled. "Look, she's standing up! She's such a big girl!" In a sense, what that really means is – "Look, she's a human being, she's one of us".