17 May 2012, 10:19pm
Ender tangents
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Ketchup

Where was I again?

Oh, that’s right. I remember now.

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    Ender is… well I won’t call it Crawling, but by the time you finish reading this post it might be. He’s got the legs mostly worked out, but his arms stick out stiff in front of him, effectively providing breaks to his forward momentum. Sometimes he topples forward and manages to scramble a few inches, sometimes he sort of hops, frog style, and his whole body slides forward a bit. Sometimes he tips to the side and ends up in a roll which takes him somewhere unless he gets distracted by looking at the ceiling.

    Whatever I want to call it though, Ender is starting to be mobile. It might take him a while to get there, but he moves from point A to point B. Or at least to point A and 1/2. So far he rarely travels further than a few feet at a time, and by the time he makes it that far he’s probably ready for a nap, or at least a different point of view. Nonetheless, my baby is moving (or rather crawling) slowly into a significant new phase of independence.

    I think the reason I’ve been so excited about crawling (despite many many suggestions from more experienced parents to enjoy the lack of mobility while I could) is because it is the first time a baby is able to inflict his will on the world. Up until this point, Ender has been subject to my choices and my whims. Obviously he still is, but before the only protest he could make was to cry or to hold on to the toy a bit tighter. Now he can run away. He can go places I’d rather he not.

    Obviously it’s not just about baby vs. parent. Ender suddenly has the ability to make real choices.

    I mean, sure, before, while he was playing under his baby gym, he could choose to bat at the owl, or yank on the blue bird, or kick the padded bar, but this is the illusion of choice we give to toddlers to appease them (would you like the blue socks or the red socks today?) not a real decision.

    Soon, Ender will be able to survey the room and decide: do I want to go play with the ball, or do I want to hide under a blanket, or do I want to try to pull up on that chair? Or maybe shake the security gate or bang on the door?

    We think of crawling as a big milestone, but we lump it in line with sitting up and rolling over, we see it as a halfway point to walking. It’s more than any of those, because it is such a significant shift in how the baby’s world operates.

    I realize this will sound absurd, but it makes me think of the video game the Sims. Sims 2 to be specific. (And this isn’t even the first time I’ve talked about life mirroring the Sims.) In the Sims 2, when your sim has a baby, it functions as an object in the game for three days. You have to feed it and change it and bathe it, and you can play with it or sing to it, and you put it to bed. After three days, it morphs to a “toddler” a slightly larger crawling sim. Only then can you see the intent of the sim, the moods, the metered needs and wants and fears. Only then does the sim have selectable actions, and begin to learn skills. Only then does the sim become a playable character.

    From the time Ender was born, he was learning of course. They do that. Up until now, he was not a participant in his learning, he was a passive receiver, truly the sponge we say babies are (a really CUTE sponge though). Now he is on the same continuum as a toddler or even a preschooler. Of course there is a world of difference between a crawling baby and a three year old, but it is only one of time and experience, not one of being.

    Yesterday he was an object. Today he is a player.

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