A few years ago I read something on a knitting blog where the author talked about watching her own hands. If you’re a pretty experienced knitter, the motions are all totally automatic. Even if you’re looking at your knitting, you’re probably not really noticing every single one of those movements, unless you really force yourself to watch. And when you do, it’s amazing.
Slip the needle through the stitch, wrap the yarn, pull it through, slip it off, shuffle the next stitch a little further up the needle while tightening the stitch you just knit. Each stitch requires a dozen tiny little hand motions that happen almost simultaneously without any conscious thought at all. The most mundane row of knitting, something I do without even glancing down, is actually a wonder of mind-hand coordination.
All sorts of things are like this. Try, really try, sometime to notice all the things you do automatically when you get on your bike, or type, or take a shower.
As I watch Ezra learn to crawl, I’ve been marveling at how he slowly but surely adds new movements to his repertoire, learning each and making it automatic even as he is already starting to learn the next one. Pushing his head up while on his tummy to find something he wants. Reaching for it and finding it is out of range. Pulling his body over his arm to move forward. Pushing with his toes. Getting up on hands and knees. Rocking back and forth. Collapsing forward. Picking up one hand and putting it down a little further forward. Doing it over and over until he can identify something he wants to crawl toward (i.e. electrical cords), get up on hands and knees, and go to there. Efficiently. Automatically.
The new movements add up so quickly. He suddenly knows to make stepping movements if you hold him up by his hands and he can get both hands up on a stool or coffeetable (though he still has no idea how to bring his center of gravity in close enough to fully pull up). For weeks, he pushed most of his food back out with his tongue over and over again, and then one day he realized that opening and closing his mouth repeatedly was a better way to handle the delicious mushy mess.
Yesterday I left him playing on the floor in his room and went next door to the bathroom to brush my teeth. He started crying a little (separation anxiety, right on time!), so I started talking to him. “I’m right over here, bud. I’m coming right back. It’s ok. I’m right here.” The cries got quieter. Then I heard a slapping on the floor and a sigh of effort, and suddenly he was at the bathroom door grinning with satisfaction.