As any parent will tell you, and as I’ve written about previously, there are a handful of milestones that you look forward to and keep track of as your little one grows. Lifting his head on his own, sitting up, eating baby food, eating real food, crawling, sleeping through the night, jibber jabbering, talking, standing, walking, etc. all earn a little mental checkmark and maybe even a fist pump like, “Yes, we did it, we haven’t messed this kid up yet!” And even the most secure of parents (which I consider myself though part of that is probably due to sheer ignorance) can’t help but compare their kid’s progress to that of the other little one’s around them. “Every kid is different” you (rightfully and truthfully) hear and you know that’s true but in the back of your mind you occasionally think, “Dude, would you get it together with (insert important benchmark here)? This is getting ridiculous.” For me, “insert important benchmark here” was walking. I knew literally NOTHING about babies in the first six or so months and therefore couldn’t have even told you if Cooper was behind on anything. He was a delayed crawler but this kid has literally the biggest head in the entire world; he couldn’t hold it up well enough to get moving so I wasn’t concerned. He started talking a little late but he recognized a ton of words very early so the fact that he wasn’t vocalizing all that much didn’t bother me. But the walking thing…come on, dude. For months, Cooper looked like he was right on the verge of beginning to walk. Lindsey and I must have said to each other, “I think he’s about to start walking” 100 times in his fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth months of life. Countless times he would let go of whatever piece of furniture he was holding on to, survey the landscape as if he was Neil Armstrong stepping out of the moon lander, then look at us like, “This is happening”…before dropping down to his crawl and scampering off. I think he enjoyed faking us out, honestly.
About half the time when he did start to take off, that planet-sized orb of his would shift like a bobblehead and he’d have to return to safety. Even when he was able to keep his head under control, he clearly didn’t feel secure about two-legged movement and often adamantly refused to engage in that sort of shenanigans. (His incredible stubbornness is definitely something that’s going to go away soon, right veteran parents? RIGHT? PLEASE TELL ME IT’S GOING TO GO AWAY!) Over and over, Lindsey or I would hold him under the arms, put his feet on the ground, and try to get him moving and about 90% of the time he absolutely lost his mind and arched his back in protest until he was almost a little (chubby) ball. Then he’d go back to his crawl and get wherever he needed to go in record time. And hey, it’s tough to blame him; he moved fast, like something out of a horror movie except really cute, so why fix what ain’t broken? But boy, was it frustrating to his stupid parents. For a couple of months, if not more, all three of us knew he was totally capable of accomplishing this feat but one of us refused to buy in. You’re bringing this whole team down, Cooper.
Then one blessed day (almost two months ago which is shameful in terms of not writing about it but I’m busy so GET OFF MY BACK!), all the stars aligned. Cooper woke up with a low grade fever or a stomach ache or some other ailment that I’ve forgotten because honestly he’s had so many of them lately that they’ve become impossible to keep track of so I stayed home with him. Post-nap he was in a great mood and started getting adventurous. While playing on the windowsill (at the time, the windowsill was BY FAR his favorite place to be; he sat and stood there, crawled along it like Spider-man, and spent an embarrassing amount of time looking at his own reflection and laughing) he lost hold of whatever toy he was playing with and promptly hopped down and took four or five steps to retrieve it. LIKE IT WAS NOTHING! He gave me a sly look that suggested, “Hey dummy, I’ve been able to do this for ages and you just haven’t caught on. Idiot.” I texted Lindsey excitedly and that night we popped the champagne (read: “sparkling grape juice”) in celebration of our little guy’s achievement.
By literally the next morning, Cooper was EVERYWHERE, moving exclusively as a biped. Suddenly the light had switched on and he had grown into a fully functioning human. “Crawling is for babies!” I heard him exclaim as he flicked a cigarette and took out a mortgage on his first house. “Stop growing up!” I yelled after him as he rode away on a Harley. But seriously, it really felt like we went to bed one night as the parents of a non-toddling toddler and woke up as parents of a real little boy. Except every once in a while for the first couple of weeks I would forget he could walk and then he’d come wandering around the corner like Big Baby from Toy Story 3 and FREAK ME OUT.
Everything has changed over the last couple of months. All Cooper wants to do now is walk. You don’t truly understand the shift in house dynamics that this transition calls for until it’s actually happening. Baby gates are borderline useless because in order to keep the kid fully reigned in you’d need like 12 baby gates and whenever he can’t get where he wants to go he just has a fit anyway so what’s the point? Doors must be kept shut at all times, the refrigerator is about to get padlocked (because as you all know, this kid likes his food and he knows exactly where it all comes from), and poor Lucy Dog spends more time outside so as to avoid the fully mobile ruffian who likes to chase her around while wielding whatever “weapon” he can get his hands on. It’s a new day in the Gill household and sometimes I have to remind myself that I got exactly what I hoped for with this whole walking thing and with it comes new challenges like never being able to go to the bathroom in peace without Big Baby banging on the door while yelling, “Hiiiiiiiiii!!!” at the top of his lungs.
Please pray for Lucy Dog, Brian