Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Of partial mobility and glaciers

Mobility should be an all-or-nothing phenomenon. At least that's what I believed until the last few months, when it was redefined for me by Little Bro.

I'm lucky that Little Bro is a younger sibling. My experiences with Big Bro have given me the true wisdom of hindsight, which stops me from being too wound up in the significance of individual milestones. Rolling at two months or ten is unlikely to influence my boys' ability to pass their final school exams, find friends or live a fulfilling life.

Little Bro seems to function in the belief that there are some achievements that, once ticked off in his "Blue Book" health record, he doesn't need to bother with it again. Like rolling. By about five months, Little Bro had proven that he had the neuronal and muscular capability to roll by rolling front-to-back and back-to-front about once each. That done, he filed rolling in the "been there, done that" drawer, and busied himself with studying towards his next achievement. It's only been in the last few days- four months after those first rolls- that he has seen the point, and started rolling with the intent of going somewhere (preferably not off the change table!)

Crawling looks like being a similarly drawn out process. Two years ago, Big Bro had a eureka moment when he managed to coordinate his flailing arms and legs to propel himself towards my laptop, and then there was no stopping him. Little Bro seems to be investigating various modes of motility before committing- he attempts a bit of commando crawling, a bit of conventional and a bit of bum-shuffling.

I don't blame him for not feeling excited by the prospect of crawling- the best attempts he has are very successful in moving him away from the target object. Similarly, another attempt at motility which I call "lead from behind" (or at worse moments, "the kamikaze dive") tends to launch Little Bro nose-first into the ground.

But coming back to the issue of partial mobility: despite his apparent inertia, Little Bro somehow manages to move a metre or two in very short spaces of time. This functions to allow access to all sorts of forbidden objects: blue paint used to make wrapping paper, delectable morsels of paper, and Big Bro's carefully constructed Duplo buildings and railway networks. This last object of desire is the one that causes the most sibling friction, eliciting cries of "No, don't break it, Mama, he's breeeaaaking my tracks" and making me think that once Little Bro is truly mobile we may have to engineer a Big Bro sanctuary where he can create in safety.

Watching Little Bro makes me feel like I'm watching a glacier: I can't see the actual movement, but over time I see the evidence that he has moved. And like a twentyfirst century glacier, the bulk of the movement is regressive. And perhaps like some glaciers, all of a sudden that movement is going to become a whole lot more fluid and cause a whole heap of downstream problems (as far as Big Bro is concerned). Not what you want for a glacier, but exactly what a little boy is supposed to do.

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