My son is now 8 months and nearly walking unassisted – an early skill that puts him ahead of his peers developmentally but says nothing much regarding his overall intellect. Many people believe that early this or early that means a high IQ, but there’s much more to life than being able to stand fast, run fast or to bump into something that causes him to bleed. Professional athletes aren’t really known for their massive intellects, after all. But then again, maybe the earning potential is much higher for kids exhibiting early athleticism?
Don’t get me wrong, we’re quite happy that he’s athletic. He was crawling at seven months, and just a week before Christmas he’d sneaked over to the Douglas fir with such stealth that I hadn’t noticed. The tree was decorated with glass globes, metal sleds and any number of made-in-China ceramic Santa Clauses. But it was one of the glass mini-bottles – Grey Goose Vodka – that made him bleed. Before having children, we’d pick an arbitrary theme for our annual tree decorating party and friends would arrive with the craft project in hand. Other years we did transit passes (New York Metro Cards) and wine corks. Being far away from family meant we needed help with the holiday decorations at first, but marrying brings a flood of Christmas tree ornaments from relatives and friends, and now the tree was in full chotchi blossom.
The vodka bottle had not been emptied like the others on the tree, the Maker’s Mark long since downed and all the sweet liquors long gone. Getting home from work invited tree picking for the week following our mini-bottle tree party, but we weren’t vodka drinkers so the bottle was grandfathered to subsequent years until it met its faithful day with our son.
The bleeding was mild compared to the screaming. He took it pretty well while I looked on in horror at the broken bottle between his legs. The wooden floor was soaking up the alcohol and his hands were near the cut glass. It was quickly going from bad to worse, but snatching a baby from danger is one of those lightening fast instincts that comes naturally to parents. Extract and evaluate. Soothe, then deny there’s a problem.
Upon extracting and evaluating the little booger, the cut was closing on itself although the droplets of blood had made their way down his face to give the appearance he was crying red tears. While cleaning him up I was already practicing what to say about it to my spouse. It didn’t take long before I realized there was nothing that needed to be said. Sometimes these big moments in the day seem unnecessarily for the evening spouse report. Nothing constructive ever came from Vodka.
For new parents, we were just beginning to understand that the first crawl comes on intensely and is accompanied by an almost carnal curiosity. Only a week later he was crawling a self-ordained course in our house, first to the spice rack in the kitchen where he dislodged them all; second to the cooking pots; third to the newspaper bin; fourth to the bedroom where he opened the door and studied himself in the closet mirrors; and finally back to the living room for a look at the Christmas tree which was like a sacrificial altar to a menagerie of new things. He finds bases to practice standing up throughout his unvarying circuit around the house, holding on with both hands to rise on point (never flat-footed) and then letting go with one hand and arching around to venture upon any unbolted object, putting everything in his mouth before studying the spoon, salt shaker, toy car, random shoe, found coin or any other shiny or paper object he thinks lucky to find. He waves then shakes each object in the air, a ceremonial series of experiments to determine the exact mass and quality of every new thing. Always starting in the mouth and ending up flung somewhere impossible for us to find later. Then, his dismount comes and we watch with horror or stand near to catch him. Mostly we let him fall to discover his own vulnerability.
When we take him to church or to the YMCA children’s hour I say thanks when people tell me how advanced my child is for his skills in mobility. I also say thanks when the compliment suggests he’s very smart for his age. But I know that measuring intelligence is done by evaluating a number of different skills. For us, we’re thrilled to have an incredibly smart crawler and stander. But, honestly, the jury is still out as to whether the little booger is smart enough to keep from getting injured because of his advanced skills in mobility. And time will only tell whether his early athleticism translates into advanced verbal skills, concentration and ultimately the kind of intellect which we hope divines a life long happiness.