We all have our eyes on a place somewhere off in the distance. A place that makes our hearts race a little. Some horizon where we imagine we’ll find our best selves. Or, at least, a new challenge to conquer. Something small, but meaningful. The obvious, but wrong, question is: how do we get from point A (here, now) to point B (horizon)? The right question? I’ll get to that.

First, let me tell you about three boys. All about the same age. 6-8 months old. Two of them are crawling and one is not.

The first boy began to crawl by first pushing his body off the ground with his hands and legs. Downward-facing dog, for you yogis. And, in this position, he would hum in place like an idling car, ready to go but not yet in the right gear to get anywhere. After a few weeks, this boy had an epiphany… and he started humping the floor. Full-on humping. As if a driver hopped into that idling car, and hit the gas hard, but forgot to release the parking brake.

Then, a few weeks later, it happened. Just like that. The humping turned to crawling when he figured out how to put his legs and arms in gear, so to speak. No downward-facing dog? No crawling. No humping the floor while adults giggled like teenage boys? No crawling.

The second boy was going nowhere fast until he learned to push up with his hands, just like the first boy. But this one didn’t bother to lift his Gumby noodle legs off the floor. So, propped up, he observed the world, in neutral. Hands up, belly down, legs mostly immobile.

Then, one day, he learned to move his hands back toward his body. And when he did that, his entire body started to move. Backwards. With no rear view mirror, he would crash into things he couldn’t see, getting stuck under chairs and tables, wondering how he ended up where he did. Finally, it occurred to him to get up on his knees. And everything changed. His knees kept him from going backward when he pushed off with his hands. And once he began moving his hands forward, he started to actually go forward. Without crashing into things. And life was good for him. And tiring for his parents.

The third boy didn’t like spending time on his belly, so he developed a system for movement that involved the least amount of tummy time possible. He arched his back and tilted his head back so he could see behind him. Then, with a little torque, he’d roll from back to front and front to back again. Rinse, wash, repeat. You’d be surprised at how quickly one can move from side to side, just by rolling. So this boy moved without crawling. And, most of the time, his system allowed him to reach what he wanted. But someday, it won’t be enough. And then he’ll improvise. And one day, he’ll crawl. He may be slower to do it than the others. He may not fit neatly into the medical establishment’s accepted timeframe for crawling, but he’ll get there. And a year from now, it won’t matter how he got from point A to point B.

My son, Declan, is the third boy. He’s going to be deliberate. Just like his parents. He’s going to learn by observation and quiet practice. Just like his parents. He’s going to bounce around from one obsession to another. Just like his parents. Right now, he’s focused on making a noise that sounds as if he’s gargling mouthwash. Tomorrow, he may decide something else interests him more.

The bitch about living in a time of easily accessible information is that it is hard to discern what is relevant, true, and essential, and what is just noise. Parents are constantly prodded to compare our children to the norm, the bell curve. And occasionally there’s value in this. But mostly, it’s a distraction. Ripping you away from the moment. Taking you away from your own wisdom. Drowning out what your own children are saying right to your face. Yes, even the ones who don’t yet talk are telling you something.

The right question is not: “how do we make sure our kids get from point A to point B by the age-appropriate time?” The right question is: “what are they doing right now, at point A?” Answer that–every day–and the rest will follow. And some day, you’ll look back from that far-out horizon, and it will all make perfect sense and you’ll say things like “fate” or “destiny” or the “hand of God.” And you will wonder why you doubted. And you will wonder if you ever really had control. And you will say the journey–rolling, humping, crawling, walking, and all–was the important part anyway. And you will be right.

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