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I went to a restaurant the other day that had some steps. N can’t walk but he crawls around at top speed. His father and I were involved in conversation and our barefoot little urchin decided he had had enough of his high chair and the food, and was squirming to be released.
While we had one eye on him, he wandered to the edge of the steps. Suddenly there was a collective gasp from eaters and waiters alike and a couple of them made a mad dash towards the baby thinking the obviously careless parents hadn’t noticed him at the edge of three steps.
To tell the truth, I had noticed, my husband had not. From the two of us he is slightly paranoid when N is on the threshold of something seemingly dangerous. In my supervision N plays with forks and butter knives. This is a boy who blinks his eyes when you clap loudly in front of him, or even when you blow bubbles near his face. His natural instincts to protect himself kicked in ages ago. He has only once shoved the wrong side of a steel spoon in his mouth, gagged and played safe every since.
Coming back to the restaurant, even my normally worried husband told the staff to let him be.
The reason being, we have a lot of ups and downs in our house. We have two large balconies where we have to climb up and down to get to. And N has been climbing up and down them for over a month and a half now, as you can see here:
He can get down a bed easily and we don’t really worry about leaving him on our bed or sofa unsupervised. When we’re roughhousing or crazily playing with him, he has fallen off the bed a couple of times but that was more because he was consumed in laughter and not when he was in his normal senses.
The other day a little girl who just turned one and a friend of N’s from the garden came over for a play date. She was walking and her mother followed her around the house holding her hand every 10 seconds anticipating a fall. How claustrophobic that must be for a child? Specially a child learning about her surroundings, and learning how not to fall on her own.
Left to their own devices, babies learn fast how to maneuver around edges and find a way. It’s instinctual and it’s basic and it’s obvious! Babies are primal creatures; they come into the world knowing nothing and learn everything by sensing, touching, feeling, and falling. They come into the world and their survival instincts click into gear, like rooting for a nipple when hungry.
If I were to worry every time N was near uneven surfaces I’d probably have had a stroke already. Not worrying has given me a lot of free time, as I don’t have to drop everything and make a dash for him when he is teetering on the edge of a step. Yes he may fall once, but may not the second time.
The same goes for his habit of mouthing everything. While I am careful not to leave earrings or coins around for him to ingest, I try and turn a blind eye when he eats a leaf on the porch or chews on the edge of the sofa. It makes my job easier, and hey, he hasn’t been sick yet!
In traditional societies where people had multiple children, when babies meandered off and picked up something dangerous, the mother who had a million things to do would not drop everything and run. The babies’ instincts more often than not would protect her. We don’t trust our instincts enough and therefore trust our babies’ instincts even less!
Thanks for reading. For those of you with kids, do you agree that you should let your babies learn to survive on their own terms when they are exploring? Let me know in the comments.