At 16 months, my granddaughter still can’t form many words. Her motor skills are still developing and she has only just graduated from crawling to navigating the world on two feet. She may be tentative in her early attempts at balancing, but she doesn't give up. Often she moves hesitatingly, stretching out to grasp someone’s hand or to lean on a piece of furniture for reassurance. Even when she falls, she gets up and tries again. Last week, she managed a zombie-like walk with hands outstretched. It made us laugh, but she didn't let our laughter dampen her resolve. Toddlers get up no matter how many times they fall down, unlike adults who often attempt something once. If it doesn't go our way, we decide never to try again. Toddlers don't do that. If they can’t get at it one way, they find another. They look at things from different angles, testing every practical strategy they can come up with. They have inbuilt determination and persistence. Just ask any parent.
Of course, I need to guide her to be safe while not diminishing her sense of exploration and wonder. It’s sadly we adults who say don’t, stop, watch out and the worst of all, don’t try! We create the budding inner critic that thrives in the wrong environment. I'd hate to be one of the people who puts such a voice into her head, probably because my own critic screams so loudly and I know how limiting its admonitions are.
Recently my granddaughter learned to grasp a pen and relishes making long inconsistent scribble marks on any piece of paper she can. Her expression is always one of great accomplishment, as if she’s written a best seller. It left me with the question as to whether I still have the capacity to treat the world with such confidence.
When I look at my scribbles – disjointed writing, paragraphs that need serious editing, a plot that’s going nowhere, characters that I don't know well enough yet – my inner critic springs into action. It’s all overwhelming. I see only errors, the bits that don’t work. When my work goes into the wider world, each rejection sits me back on my butt with disappointing force, prompting the cry, what’s the point? I'm so tempted to give up. Then I think about the sense of awe that my granddaughter displays. Look what I've done! Yes, it needs development, but it’s on the page with all its faults and all its potential. It’s a point to start.
I hope wide-eyed wonder is infectious. From now on I'm going to revert to my inner toddler when the challenge seems too big; check all the angles, look for another way to get through.
I'm keeping a close eye on my granddaughter. We have much to learn from one another.