I was excited recently when the post arrived and I un-wrapped our little girls’ very first footwear. Stretchy, super-soft leather booties. Cute, and so far relatively easy to get on her feet and keep them there. But then at the moment they are still quite a novelty, so perhaps in a few weeks time she’ll be more inclined to pull them off her feet when I’m not looking!
She is not quite ready for them really, as she is not walking independently yet. But she does practice, practice, practice, and she utterly loves to hold our hands and be helped to walk about. So I thought it was worth getting ready for when the time comes. Whenever that is.
I actually find it quite amazing how milestone-driven Western society is when it comes to babies. At every stage of her tiny life I have been asked whether our baby girl is performing to target…‘is she smiling yet?’, ‘is she rolling yet?’, ‘is she sitting up yet?’, ‘is she weaned yet?’. Right now, whether she is crawling, climbing, or walking is the hot topic. As well-meaning as the questions usually are, I cannot help but feel that target driven performance for babies is all a bit unnecessary. I mean, she’s a baby!! My view is that she’ll get there when she gets there, and as long as she is happy and healthy en route, that is all that matters to me. But I find it interesting how different countries and cultures approach the whole baby walking issue.
Many Balinese babies are carried about for the first few months of their lives without ever putting their feet on the ground. That is because in Balinese Hinduism, babies are believed to be divinities from heaven. As such, their feet are not supposed to touch the floor until they are nearly seven months old. The point of contact when they are finally put on the ground is highly symbolic, symbolising the child’s transition from divine being to human.
By contrast, in some parts of Africa and India, babies are given regular strenuous leg massage and stretching exercises from very early on, and are positioned on the floor in ways which encourage movement and walking from a young age. In some cultures this starts right from birth (which to me seems like just one extra job that new parents could do without!), with parents actively trying to maintain the relatively short-lived automatic stepping reflex that new-born babies have.
But really, although varying cultural attitudes and emphasis on walking can create slight differences in standard ages for walking, ultimately the difference is not huge. It is largely to do with the brain’s innate ability to process certain motor skills and command the body to perform those physical functions.
So for the moment, I am very happy for our little girl to crawl and wobble about, and just enjoy the sensation of testing out her new movement skills. Taking the lead from a rather sweet Chinese custom I heard about, perhaps I should buy her a jade bangle in preparation too (I am never one to miss the opportunity to shop!)? Not only would it look pretty adorable on her chubby little wrist, but apparently the idea is that the bangle acts as a talisman, breaking in place of any bones if the baby should fall. Jade bangle or no, I am going to keep on persevering with the shoes. Barefoot is fine here most of the time, but holidays are coming and English summer weather is a fickle thing, so I think it is probably best to get her in the habit of shoes and socks early!