The other day in our RIE class another mom asked a question I’d been thinking about but was too ashamed to ask. She said her daughter was almost a year old and wasn’t walking yet and she wondered if she should be concerned. Obviously she was new to RIE. I wasn’t and I knew better than to ask and I knew exactly what our teacher, Catriona, would say.
Aidan is 13 and a half months old and he shows no desire to walk. He’s a truly amazing crawler. He is so fast, it sometimes looks like we’re watching him on fast forward. And his form is beautiful. Textbook. He’s a cocky crawler even. He struts, head held high, a determined look on his face that displays nonchalant confidence, a sense of purpose. Other babies are drawn to him. They follow him to see what he’s getting up to that could be so important. So why would he want to walk? He definitely shows signs of strengthening the muscles needed to walk. He does downward facing dog and up-dog and he’s been pulling himself up and cruising the furniture since he was about seven months old. (Here’s the first time he did it…so proud!)
He didn’t even have any teeth yet and everyone started saying, Oh he’s going to walk any minute! And here we are more than six months later and he seems to have no desire to let go of the edge of the couch. When he has something in his hands—a rice cake, two shovels, two trucks—he crawls on his forearms, very skillfully, but don’t you think he’d realize walking would make it all a bit more elegant and easy? My parents are clearly getting antsy: they’ve started doing the deed that is strictly verboten by RIE, walking him around by his hands. And I’ve stopped stopping them, because secretly I’m getting a little antsy myself.
In RIE they believe, and I totally agree with them, that babies develop gross motor skills like walking when they are ready. And we should not put them into positions they aren’t getting into themselves because their muscles are not yet ready for those positions. In other words, Aidan will walk when his body is prepared to walk and until then we should all shut the hell up and stop bugging him about it. Catriona said what I knew she would. All this, and that some important brain development happens during the crawling phase (a fact I repeat to anyone who will listen) and that when we try to make a baby walk before he’s doing it himself, we’re subtly giving him the message that he’s not good enough the way he is now, that we wish he were different, we wish he were better. And God knows I don’t want to telegraph that message to Aidan. I think he’s perfect just the way he is.
But that day it was rough. For a long time Aidan was a leader in RIE class. He was really good at rolling, then super speedy at scooting, pulling himself around with his hands, then he was crawling like a champ. But now other kids have begun to surpass him. The only ones not walking are younger than him. Even Jake, Aidan’s age but a really big boy, who took longer than everyone else to begin moving about—his poor mom! I sympathize!—was suddenly pushing himself spontaneously onto his feet in the middle of the room, standing for a minute, then falling on his butt. Aidan’s never done that. All the kids in our mommy group walked at around one year, a couple waited until 14 months or so, right around his age. One mom in RIE class confessed that she’d got her baby walking using push toys, another RIE no-no. When we were in Boston earlier this week, we took boo to the Children’s Museum and I confess I tried to interest him in the push toys there. He loved them, but pushed them around on his knees!
Catriona told us that when she was in RIE class as a parent, back when her kids were babies, her kids were the last to walk. They didn’t walk until 18 months, and even she, the total RIE devotee, began to feel impatient and wonder if something was wrong. But her teacher told her to hang tight. She told her that her girls would walk when they were ready, and they did. They walked and they talked and they are now big, beautiful, smart and strong. We went out to dinner the other night with family friends, mom and her son and daughter. She said neither of them walked until they were 17 months. Now she’s a resident in pediatrics and he’s an international lawyer. They’re both dynamic—and very good walkers. Aidan will be too. And besides the fact that he demolishes the knees of his pants and the tops of his shoes, there’s really no reason to want him to walk any time soon. No reason at all. And so my son continues to teach me patience, to teach me faith, to teach me to trust that everything is happening exactly as it should. And those are lessons that can serve me in every aspect of my life.