Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sleep-crawler alert!

When Sonny's awake, he's a flop. When effectively asleep, he's a champ.

We're talking here about crawling. That's right, as the little fella completes a round five months with us, he's often to be found trying desperately to propel himself along on his own steam. He flips his body about haphazardly, his legs pedal away at an invisible bicycle - yet for all the effort put in, there's little to no forward motion chalked up.

But after Sonny's given up and drifted off, then when he's just returning once more to the world of the wide-awake, something bizarre happens. Somehow, he finds the right height and angles for his pedal-action, and - as Mom and Pa look on in something akin to horror - begins scampering along with some speed, traversing the length of his mattress in seconds. All this, with his eyes shut.

Sleep-crawling is not something we've come across in our childcare-related reading. It stands to reason that Sonny will next learn, and soon, to crawl while awake: Though we used to dread the prospect of his curiosity then sending him into harm's way, now we can't wait for him to restrict his explorations to his eyes-open hours. For, of course, he's presently an even greater danger to himself than ever: Blindly whizzing along, he could quite easily slam into the piano, a wall or the TV console, depending on the direction that he takes off in. At least, were he awake, he might at least try to avoid obstacles in his path.

It's tempting to see here a child-level instantiation of a more general truth: All too often, we blunder our about wreaking havoc through being unaware of the dangers around us. It's a charge we might level against ignorant politicians or policymakers, for instance. But it is true that sometimes, were our eyes so wide open that we could take in the full range of risks, threats and potential barriers before us, we would be too discouraged or plain terrified to actually get going. Brash young upstarts can achieve outperform wised-up veterans precisely because it hasn't yet gotten into their heads that such-and-such a target cannot reasonably be achieved, or that a certain risk is simply too frightening to run.

So sleep-crawl away, Sonny, if that's the only way you can come ultimately to crawl while fully conscious. It's even rather amusing to watch a half-asleep baby on the march. But it's a joke that could grow really old, really soon.