Nolan began crawling yesterday. We're calling it his father's day present to me. He's been scooting, nudging, inching, tipping, and teetering for weeks, but yesterday, sitting up on all fours, he finally figured out how to move his knees forward in concert with his little hands and now he can't sit still. His world has just gotten infinitely larger and our house has become infinitely more dangerous. Now every crumb, marble, paper clip, rock, cheerio, and toothpaste cap in the house is a potential choking hazard and every coffee table, chair, house plant, and file box is a potential accident.
When a new baby begins to crawl for the first time, the event is accompanied on the one hand by a cheering section of onlookers excited for the huge accomplishment, and on the other hand by a byword group of naysayers who see nothing but trouble in the babies new found skill. Ironically the two groups are usually one in the same. In the same breath I find myself calling out encouragingly to my son as he begins to crawl and then saying through the side of my mouth that we are in for it.
"Why are we encouraging this?" is the common refrain, as if crawling were the end of something wonderful, or worse, the beginning of something awful. I've said it several times, always in jest, of course, because thats what you say when a baby begins to crawl. Like any number of preprogrammed social interactions, when a baby learns to crawl it is our duty to verbalize the pre-established commentary. I ask other students "What are you studying?" and young married couples "How long have you been married?" I ask children what grade they're in? Bus drivers how long they've been driving, teachers how long they've been teaching. When a teenager gets a drivers' license, they're sure to hear someone make a crack about staying off the sidewalks. Its not the repetition that makes cliche so unbearable, but rather the lack of creativity associated with the canned conversations we engage in everyday with otherwise interesting people who are either too tired, too busy, or too complacent to come up with something original. I want to get beyond the hellos and how are yous, the weather conversations, and the small talk over fences . I want to get over awkward glances, and dead fish words that fall limp on cold ears.
Sure crawling means that we'll have to keep a better eye on him, that he'll be more apt to get himself into dangerous situations, more likely to disappear if we turn our back for a second, but doesn't it also mean that the freedom of movement will mean less frustration, a greater variety of play. And what if he didn't start crawling until he was a year? I would be nuts with anxiety. Everyone around us would wonder aloud in private if something wasn't the matter with him. The parents of early crawlers would feel good about their child's apparent developmental advantage, and I would feel ever increasing pressure to help my child adhere to the established normality. Maybe we don't all think this way, but certainly it hints at what we are capable of, or perhaps not capable of. Maybe my own assumptions are cliche in their own right, maybe when all is said and done, cliche is all we have to live with, and what really takes the cake is our ability to, rain or shine, call upon the long list of faithful phrases that, like two peas in a pod, seem to match up so easily with the run-of-the-mill situations we run into in our daily lives. Perhaps cliche saves us the hassle of being creative--a bird in the hand, is after all, worth two in the bush, and if we've got to break-a-leg in order to get the juices flowing then it might be worth it to let dead dogs lie. After all, when it comes to creativity, most people would rather have their cake and eat it too, than go the extra mile. Instead of crying over spilled milk about our incesant need to rely prescribed communication, I think I'll just stop and smell the roses while I watch to make sure my seven month old doesn't climb into them.