Essentially, I left that appointment with the awareness that continuing to allow him to walk in this totally dependent way would potentially cause a lot off issues down the line, and this false sense of independence he would feel from walking with us would make it so much harder for him to walk without us. Dr. Erin gave us some homework, first and foremost to practice crawling with him in ways that were fun and stimulating for him, making tunnels out of pillows, putting toys he loves out of reach on the floor several feet away from him, and crawling together as a family game of sorts. She also encouraged us to stop holding his hands when he walks, and instead to spot him from behind so he knows we are there and feels our support, but does not rely on us (probably a really good metaphor for a lifetime of parenting!)
I went home feeling confident that we now had a clear vision of what we needed to do to get Theo crawling and walking on his own. I wasn’t anticipating how incredibly challenging this transition would be for Theo, and for me as well. Theo was completely freaked out by suddenly having the support he had come to rely on taken away from him. He spent a couple days really fearful of walking. Every time his dad or I tried to get him up on his feet, he would flat out refuse to stand. When we tried to get him to take even a step or two on his own he would cry, and bury his face in our shoulders. He started biting us and refusing to eat. It was clearly traumatic for him, and difficult to watch.
As a mama, I had to make a judgment call and follow my intuition. After discussing with Dr. Erin, we figured as long as we keep pushing the crawling practice and making sure he’s developing his core that way, maybe we could ease up on the really extreme shift away from walking without any support at all, since this was clearly upsetting him more than any of us were comfortable with. After a couple really challenging days we realized we needed to tune into what worked for our child and our family, while taking into account our new knowledge of important developmental milestones. After talking with my mom and Chris we decided to try gently holding one of his hands when he walks, so that he isn’t hanging off of us but just using our hands as gentle reminders that we are still there. We also decided to make sure we alternated hands for equilibrium. When we started doing this, he was immediately back to his old self, walking happily (though more cautiously), with that smile back on his face.
By, Julia Alter
© Birth Love Family 2018