The baby has been working on his crawling for the past few weeks and has finally honed the single skill that will give him the confidence to become a proficient crawler. I call this skill the exit strategy.
For the first couple weeks of crawling practice, the baby did the natural thing by rolling himself onto his tummy and pushing himself up onto his hands and knees. This was all well and good while it lasted, but he was doomed to lose this posture before long and find himself flat on his belly, hopelessly trying to doggie paddle across the carpet.
He found this to be an awkward and vulnerable position. All he could do was cry and hope that some helpful walker would take pity and set him back up into a sitting position. From there, he could play quietly and forget all about his crawling woes until some inviting object, just outside of his reach, tempted him into another fiasco of failed locomotion.
Crawling had descended into quagmire for him. He could get into proper position, but then not really go anywhere, except maybe a few inches in reverse, before his limbs gave out and left him beached on the unforgiving shores of immobility.
This flawed routine was beginning to gnaw at his confidence. It certainly made him cry a lot, and perhaps develop a habit of searching the space above him for circling birds of prey. It also made him less threatening to the cat, who no longer seemed to worry about letting down his guard around such an unpredictable creature.
That was when ingenuity took precedence over instinct. The baby stopped working so hard on trying to move, having assumed the proper crawling position, and started working on putting himself back into a stable, upright sitting posture. If you don’t agree that this breakthrough has undoubtedly saved the human race from extinction, imagine the world’s ancient population of cave people lying flat on their bellies in predator-filled forests, crying out, “Unga munga wunga!” (Loosely translated: “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”)
Once the baby knew that he could rescue himself from crawling mishaps and put himself back where he could swat at any potential swooping birds and keep the cat in his proper place, crawling was not the high-risk ordeal it had once been. It was amazing how much more eager he was to practice crawling once he knew that he controlled how practice would end.
The boy is not a proficient crawler yet, but it’s all downhill from here. He’s conquered the one thing that could stand in his way; he’s conquered his fear, and he did it with a remarkably well-ordered plan.
Our budding little human developed his first exit strategy, which is good news for him, but bad news for the cat, because now the cat will have to develop quick exit strategies from anyplace that is floor level.
I remember those days fondly. Another great post, Scott!
It’s pretty cool, watching them figure it all out, isn’t it?