Independence. It is what every child strives for and what parents try to foster as part of the development process. Babies start their lives totally dependent and with every day move toward greater independence. It is a fascinating process to watch and participate in as a parent – not easy and not painless – but fascinating.
My niece Rita (9 months old) has it in her mind that her next big step toward independence is walking. She is just at the stage where she is recognizing that she possesses all the necessary equipment to master this feat and is starting to build and exercise the necessary skills. I am happy to be here to watch her first efforts in this endeavor.
A baby’s learning curve is amazing. They observe, they practice, they fall, they get up and they try again. Tears may be shed and they may get a few bumps and bruises in the process – but forward movement continues because independence is a powerful motivator.
I predict Rita will be walking independently in a month. I base my prediction on the deep thought and sheer will I see in her face when she takes steps with her walker toy. She is actively processing what is involved in each step and is storing away the data to better inform future efforts. She is determined and unaffected by the magnitude of the learning curve.
As powerful as the allure of indepemdence is, I believe that somewhere along the line in our development process the drive for independence becomes more balanced and we more actively seek interdependence. Having independence and the ability to do anything we want with the skills we have is modulated when we become aware that there is something wholly lacking without others to share things with. So we move from “I can do it myself!” to “Will you do it with me?” Shared experiences, shared joys, shared responsibilities…all within a frame of independence, but willfully choosing interdependence.
There is a lesson in the human progession from dependence to independence to interdependence – a valuation of what matters in life. A statement - “I can do it myself, but I don’t want to.” Of course we all know this lesson – but the next time you see a baby or child struggling to move toward independence remember that understanding you can do it all by yourself is a necessary step to the later understanding that you don’t want to. Perhaps this is a helpful reminder for all of us that at times in our lives push outward toward unfettered independence – the balance of being human calls for interdependence - we all eventually seek to return to that state.
Thank you my lovely niece for the reminder…as soon as you have mastered walking, your Aunt Carol is going to teach you to skip and sing out-of-tune…then we can skip and sing-out-of-tune some day together.
Day seven hundred and sixty-four of the new forty – obla di obla da