Thursday, July 15, 2010

Crawler Camp

I've done many crazy things in the name of motherhood, but crawling across the living room floor on all fours barking like a dog with a baby rattle in my mouth might be the nuttiest.
Actually, I wasn't just barking. I was also shaking my head back and forth and sort of growling. Being consheentious, I wanted to get the part of Beagle just right.
The simultaneous goal, however, was to encourage Charlotte to creep, a milestone that at 9.5 months had failed to materialize.
I had pretty much given up on crawling and figured it didn't matter: After all, Elizabeth sat on her tuffet until she was 13 months old then stood up and walked across the room. She's since tested into our school district's gifted and talented program so I figured she didn't miss out on much.
So when all the other babies at Kindermusik zipped across the mats on all fours, I sat back and smiled.
"Charlotte has surveyed our flooring options which include brick and wood," I told another mother, "She's happy instead to relax and preserve her knees."
Not only was the baby thrilled with the arrangement--who wants to look down at the world after sitting up?--but so was I. With Charlotte immobile, I didn't have to worry about scrubbing the floor or packing up the Legos.
Imagine my surprise when my pediatrician raised a red flag--which I dismissed.
(This is my third baby, for crying out loud, let's not rush her! She'll creep when she's ready.)
Then my dear gal pal Michelle M., who is also a pediatric physical therapist, forced me to swallow a cold dose of hard reality.
"Crawling is imperative," she said in her kind doctor-y voice. "It promotes visual perception and strengthens the arms which enables kids to form the correct pinscher grasp used for writing later."
It turns out that crawling as a baby is linked to school success: Kids who don't color or write well in kindergarten generally never crawled.
(Creeping also does a bunch of other important things but I'm several days out from the conversation so I can't remember what exactly, but the gist is that kids must go through this phase to ensure their bodies and minds work properly.)
And what of Elizabeth?
"You got lucky," my friend said. "If Charlotte's not up on all fours and swaying back and forth by ten months, give me a call for clinical assessment."
Michelle's prescription: 30 to 40 minutes of belly time per wake period. This translates to 90 minutes per day.
Now, I will blatently ignore a middle-aged male pediatrician, but I will never, ever ignore the advice of a fellow hot momma with a Ph.D. (I will disclose I've spent thousands of dollars at Michelle's clinic where William worked to quit tiptoe walking--also a seemingly harmless quirk that causes big problems--and thus I know the value of early intervention.)
So, I dutifully spent an afternoon last week rearranging the furniture and laying down a huge foam mat: Crawler Camp would commence immediately.
Charlotte was not pleased.
Four minutes into our exercises and she planted her face into the foam, looking up at me with a pleading look that said "Can I please just have the camp water bottle and T-shirt and call it quits?"
"Listen, kid," I told her, "If you want to accurately pen your incredibly long English name when you're five, you're going to have to do this."
And so we've been at it now for a week. I've alerted all family members to the situation and now even the twins--the biggest enablers of us all--are forcing Charlotte to climb over the Mt. McKinley of pillows. Why just yesterday, the big kids even played Yoga Class with Charlotte, deftly demonstrating the various poses they'd learned in preschool.
Still, no success. And no real interest.
"See, Charlotte," I tell her, "If you can crawl, you can get whatever toy you want."
She rolls her big, brown eyes at me and whines like a dolphin both harpooned and marooned.
Hence my dog act.
If we have to put this sweet cherub through Crawler Camp, at least I'll try to make it fun for her.
No wonder I'm the one sporting rug burn on my knees.

EPILOGUE: Baby Charlotte began doing an Army crawl at 11 months. She first dragged herself to an electrical outlet then scooched over to the wastebasket to lick it. I abruptly canceled the meeting with the PT but now worries she is going to pull a lamp on her head... I should be more careful what I wish for...