At her age, I didn’t know I had hands. I didn’t know the things existed at all. Or arms or elbows, knees, or toes. I didn’t know I had a body.
My girl is now over 12 weeks-old. She has lived here on earth for 12 weeks. Over those past 12 weeks and on into the future, I am watching one of the great wonders of the world – seeing a baby discover that she IS. She exists, and she barely even knows it.
The other day she found out she has hands. She made the discovery quietly, and for all I know she was the only one who was paying attention the first time it happened. But one day she was laying in her travel bed on the kitchen island, and I saw her watch her own hands. Her eyes were wide, her mouth held open in surprise, and her hand was floating in air at the end of her arm, floating in front of her face.
That was a week or two ago, and I keep seeing the same stare again and again. We’ve been reading a lot of Montessori parenting things, and they say that as a baby begins to develop it’s intelligence, it starts in the hands. Their hands are the first tools they use to understand the world. They are learning their first language, the language of the environment.
Heady stuff, but my husband and I have been watching and waiting for those hands to make contact with the world. For so long we have been ready to cheer for her every success. We are her biggest fans.
One day laying on her play mat beneath a mobile I saw what I thought was a reach. There she was, the little tiny human, swinging her arm up. She hit a white felt feather. When she hit it the second time, I teared up and texted my entire family.
I mean, it seems just moments ago she could barely figure out how to eat. And here she was making a plan! She meant to do it! Our baby girl wanted to hit that feather, and having never hit a thing before, she had FIGURED IT OUT. There it was, the felt feather waving like a triumphant flag! What I wanted to do was write her name in glitter and marker on a huge sign and cheer her name from the grandstands! GOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAL!
Then… THEN THE THING HAPPENED.
I was talking to my husband about something or other, sitting on the couch with our baby girl. I was leaning over her, with my hand out in front of her. She was studying it, looking hard at my outstretched fingers. Then she went for it. Lifting with every muscle she had, she swung her arm up high in the air and swiped at my hand.
She missed, BUT… her hand landed on my arm. She closed her fingers on my arm hair, and with her grip tight she pulled back. She hadn’t meant to do it. She was still staring at my fingers. But when her tight grip didn’t continue backward, when the tension of my hair created resistance, she looked to her hand on my arm.
EUREKA! DISCOVERY! She was holding something. SHE WAS HOLDING SOMETHING. A girl who had never held anything in her life was holding something with her tiny but magnificent little hand.
Then she didn’t it again. She raised her hand up, she clumsily wiggled her fingers into my arm hair and tightened her grip. Again resistance. Again she let go, swung her arm up and grabbed a fistful of arm hair. Swinging again, this time with her left hand, BOOM – she it hit my thumb. Then she wriggled her fingers around it AND GRABBED MY THUMB.
This is a person who has never held anything in her life. And suddenly, she discovered that she could hold something!
I cried. It was like watching her walk for the first time or hearing her first words, both of which I know are coming.
One day she will run. One day she will dance. One day she will walk through her school and talk with her friends. One day she might swim on a team or win a spelling bee or crochet the worlds largest afghan, but she has to start here. She has to figure out that she can hold something. And she did.
I was talking with my sister and brother-in-law on our trip to Texas. I said, “Every leap she makes means our relationship grows. Now that she can hold on to things I get to show her incredible textures and objects. Feathers! She can hold a feather, wave it in the air. Cotton washcloths and metal spoons. Dry leaves and wooden hoop bracelets. Our cats!”
It is magical to see a person become a person, and I didn’t realize how much my inner cheerleader would take over. I could fill a grandstand with my enthusiasm for seeing our daughter grow. I want to cheer for her at the top of my lungs. GO GIRL GO!!!!
Until we have an entire grandstand to ourselves, I’ll keep writing it all down and sending my family way too many excited texts in all caps.