It has been a long time coming. When he was a baby, I used to try to pull him to a stand. He flat out refused to put any weight on his feet. I would lift his arms to pull him up and Ben would remain in a sitting position - just sitting on air instead of letting his feet drop down to touch the floor. He learned to roll over before he was a month old, but it took forever for him to get on all fours. He army-crawled for months. And then instead of crawling, he developed a silly way of scooting on his bottom. Man, was he fast! If the kids left the garage door open while I was distracted, Ben would be in the garage, across the driveway, and halfway down the sidewalk to the neighbors' in a flash - all while scooting on his bottom.
I knew that he would learn to walk eventually. And I didn't really mind the wait. The scooting was funny, and when he figured out crawling, it was great to watch him motor across a room.
There were pangs, though. Moments where I realized how hard he was working to feel comfortable on his feet, and times when I saw other little ones striding across a room while Ben sat comfortably in one spot, not ready to move or explore.
I wrestled with my expectations. How much should I push him?
We built in a little walking and exercise time every day. He saw (and still sees) a physical therapist once a week. Big brother and sister called "walk to me, Ben!" as he took tentative steps from a couch to a sibling. We laughed as he applauded himself. A friend brought over a great walking contraption made out of PVC pipes. Ben did laps.
What made the difference? I'm not sure. It could have been the tubes in his ears. Maybe he had some balance issues that were remedied by getting tubes. It could have just been the right time; he was finally ready. He got more standing toys (like this sand table), and his stamina increased.
But I think a big part of Ben walking more now has to do with me and my willingness - finally - to slow down.
It takes a lot of patience to hold his little hands and walk together down a sidewalk. My back ached from bending over to hold fingers. And honestly, I am often in a hurry. Impatient. I have things to do and places to go. Life is much simpler when you can swing a baby onto your hip and tote him around. Or stick him in a shopping cart while picking up a few items at the grocery store. I got in the habit of carrying him everywhere because (1) he's my baby and (2) it was just plain easier.
Over the past month, I have deliberately given Ben opportunities to walk. I have slowed myself down to walk with him from the parking lot into church. I have let him out of the cart at the grocery store so that he can help me push. I have left the stroller in the trunk while Ben and I mosey around the park.
This kind of practice is fun for him even if it feels painfully slow to me.
But it has been good for both of us. I need the reminder to slow down, to spend time on the important things, not just the urgent. To give my attention to the significant people in my life. To let my loved ones have a say in how we spend our time together.
And now Ben is walking. Ironically, this is probably going to speed us up all too soon.
To see him walk, check out this video.