Learning to Walk

Learning to Walk

There’s a well-known, time-honored adage, “You’ve got to crawl before you can walk.” I believed it, too—until my granddaughter, Rory, taught me differently.

Early on, Rory was a talker, and enjoyed intricate tasks with her hands. However, she didn’t seem the least bit interested in walking by the time many children choose this more vertical mode of movement. In fact, she never even crawled. Instead, she scooted around the house on her bottom—balanced by her arms and propelled by push-offs with her busy feet. It was a pretty efficient, if unorthodox, method of moving about.

Her attentive parents read books, tried simple games, offered words of praise, and worried a lot about bad things that might be delaying or preventing walking. Nevertheless, Rory had decided that crawling as a precursor to walking was not going to be her style. Instead of worn knees, her pants had worn seats. Despite dutiful parental coaxing and multiple strategies aimed at getting her standing and walking, Rory quickly reverted to bottom-scooting whenever left to her own devices.

The photograph accompanying this article shows my son, Will, giving Rory a crawling lesson. To be sure, she appears amused by her Dad’s ministrations, but his comical efforts created no change in her behavior.

One day, the time was right. After a few tentative wide-based steps between her cheering parents, she rapidly got the hang of it. Walking on level ground quickly became common.   Rory had joined her peers in this milestone of development.

Observing her progress from my interested yet removed perspective as an out-of-town grandfather, I reflected on our propensity to pronounce normalcy and find comfort in the status quo. It’s common to tell others, “You can’t do it that way”; “That won’t work”; “There’s a right way and a wrong way”; and so forth. Often with good intentions (and occasionally with self-righteous certainty), we hand out such edicts—but at what price?

How frequently we dismiss an alternate path as being wrong. What if all our world’s creative thinkers, inventors, and artists had been cowed by such remarks? What a lackluster and stagnant world this would be! Consider that “common” and “orthodox” may not be the only ways. What a disservice we might do by telling someone, “It can’t”—or worse—“It shouldn’t be done that way!”

A Chinese Proverb declares, “There are many paths to the top of the mountain, but the view is always the same.” Let’s expand on this idea. I propose that although the view at the top might be the same, those who choose more circuitous, less traveled routes might actually experience richer moments along the way. They might witness vistas rarely seen by the majority of climbers, and certainly have stories to tell at the top that could thrill us all!

Embrace difference. Learn to walk at your own pace, in your own style…even if crawling doesn’t even enter the picture! After all, my granddaughter, Rory did. And, as a doting grandfather who is conveniently removed from the quotidian chores of parenting and disciplining, I think she’s perfect in every way.


Stephen L Hines, MD

February 2017