I don’t believe for a second that my daughter lacks the will to do the things she can’t do for herself. And maybe she never has, before even I could see (and hear) her frustration when she scoots backwards instead of crawling forward, before she began wresting her spoon out of my hand to feed herself, before she started repeatedly smacking the covers of her fat-paged board books in a vain attempt to open them. If these same activities were beyond my capacity, or my husband’s, or pretty much anybody else above the age of twelve that I know, we’d go nuts. But my daughter is indomitable. She will try and try and try and try, and if she lets out a little howl of irritation now and then, she’s earned it.
I remember reading reading somewhere that we expect more from children, the very young especially, than we do of adults. Be quiet, sit still, don’t cry, don’t touch. And while I believe these expectations are unjust, I’m also impressed with children’s capacity to meet them. Already Miss E has more focus for the tag on a throw pillow than I do for a simple telephone conversation (who isn’t also checking Facebook or their email? Come on). And as much as she might crab as she works herself inadvertently into a corner with her backwards-scooting, it’s nothing compared to my raving when I’m stuck in traffic.
At a baby shower this past weekend Miss E was repeatedly praised for her determination. While “playing” with a fifteen-month-old, the older girl would take toys out of her hands and place them out of her reach. (I do not expect babies of a certain age to share, and wasn’t fussed). If it was something Miss E really wanted, she would just wait and reach and pivot until she could get it back. She hardly whined. And she didn’t give up, even when this process repeated itself every time the older girl realized one of her prizes had been reclaimed.
And I can see how admiring my daughter’s strength of will isn’t something I have to wait until she’s stood up to her first bully or mastered her first bass line to do. I can start now. I already have.