Two weeks ago today, I witnessed something that fully justified my decision to take time off work to look after my daughters.
I now have the perfect answer to every question I’ll ever get asked about why I deemed it appropriate to step out of the office to become a stay-at-home father.
That moment was a tangible flag in the ground that I can look back on in weeks and months and years to come and say, that’s why I did it. These few seconds were emblematic of why I wanted to care for the girls and what I hoped to get from it.
Two weeks ago today, before my eyes and for the very first time in her short life, Mina crawled.
I say for the very first time, although for a couple of weeks prior to this she’d been perfecting her reversing lorry act. For those who haven’t observed a baby learning to crawl, this is the backwards shuffle that tends to prefigure actual forward motion. It’s that nifty manoeuvre which tends to result in them lodging themselves beneath a sofa and looking up at you in complete bafflement at how they’ve ended up further away from where they hoped to get to than when they started.
Mina had done plenty of this pre-work, but she’d never actually crawled forwards.
While I wrote about Mina learning to crawl in my final published article for the New Day newspaper, I’ve never written about the very first time she crawled.
It happened in the living room and it was entirely unexpected. She was sitting on the rug, acquainting herself with a red building block that she must have seen on, perhaps, ten thousand previous occasions, then without warning or even checking to see that anybody was watching, she crawled a good metre and a half across the room to the TV cabinet.
The TV cabinet used to be where Lola kept her scissors. The stainless steel blades of the scissors had clearly glinted in a ray of sunlight or done something equally poetic because they’d caught Mina’s magpie eye and she was determined to get her hands on them.
Who’d have thought that a pair of scissors would have been the impetus she needed to master crawling? I fear that says something about Mina’s nature but only time will tell. Fortunately I got there before she did and swiped them out of her reach. Lola keeps her scissors elsewhere now.
Even more fortunately though I saw Mina make that crawl. Had I been at work, I’d have missed it. Someone else would’ve seen it and it would’ve been their memory. I’d have seen innumerable replicas of the original act when I was home from work, at the weekend, at later junctures, but I would’ve missed the prototype.
How’s that for a justification for dads taking leave to care for their kids?
* * *
On a separate note, being able to crawl has liberated Mina. Her entire world has been transformed. Everything she held dear has paled against her new discoveries.
Her new discoveries like Lola’s scissors.
Like our laptops which entice her with their promise of bright screens and computery noises, I suspect because they remind her of her Peppa Pig Fun Phonics keyboard.
Like the rubber wedge underneath the kitchen door which was left by the previous owners and appears to have spent a long time in the mouth of their dog, a use that Mina had been only too keen to explore.
Like the back garden which she makes a beeline for whenever the patio door is open. It’s rather like owning a domesticated macaw which, whenever you leave its cage door open for more than a fraction of a second, spies a chance to return to the New World.
Now that Mina has bagged her crawling badge, she’s on to the next thing. This appears to be standing, using anything at hand to haul herself up into an upright position. It was the legs of the ironing board earlier which, yes, had the iron on it which was, yes, switched on and precariously balanced to allow Mina to pull it down on top of her. In our household we don’t do health and safety (see the scissors above).
Again I was there to intervene and all things being equal I’ll be there when she finally manages to pull herself up into a standing position. I just hope she gets her act together and takes her first step before my leave finishes. I want to be the one who beholds that; I don’t want to lose that memory to somebody else.
In the end, memories are all that you’re left with. You need to hold on to those you have for dear life and put yourself in a position to capture as many enduring ones as you can.
No doubt there will be lots more pictures of Mina crawling on my Instagram feed over the coming weeks.