Thursday, February 4, 2010

Tummy Time

As I have mentioned before, Tiny Baby is not a fan of tummy time.  Put him on his tummy and he becomes irritated.  Ornery.  Sometimes he'll push up and roll over as quickly as he can.  Other times, he'll surrender to gravity, burying his face in the blanket, admitting defeat.

Not surprisingly, Tiny Baby's aversion to tummy time - and his parents' failure to insist that he practice it - means that he is not yet crawling.  But, as "the books" say, some babies skip crawling altogether and that's just fine.


But wait.

Isn't crawling sort of important?  Say, like if he wants to, I don't know, get around before he learns how to walk?  Or grow up to be a Marine?  Or a sexy insurance adjuster who needs to evade a complex laser-beam security system in order to apprehend a jewel thief a la Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment?

Shouldn't I make him do his tummy time, whether he likes it or not?

Maybe so.

But you know what?  That would be a textbook instance of the parental pot calling the kiddie kettle black.

Because I kind of hate tummy time too: the metaphorical tummy time that we all face in between setting a goal and actually achieving it.  Those moments when the weight of our heavy heads keeps us looking down instead of straight ahead at what we want so far out of reach.

I've always been good about looking up the road.  I've always kept my eyes open for the New New Thing.  And when I've caught sight of that Thing, I've usually taken big steps toward it (witness my peripatetic teaching career, switching cities, levels, types of schools), often with the mistaken notion that the first step alone would produce the prize.

But I've been less good about taking those little steps, putting in the tedious labor - the professional development, the service courses - so necessary to achieve the Thing.  When faced with the boring, the less romantic, the painful, I've sometimes abandoned the Thing, rolling away or burying my face in the blanket.

I've been the baby who wants to crawl without first doing her tummy time.

So I'm a little scared today. 

Not for Tiny Baby.  He'll learn to crawl.  Eventually.  And then he'll learn to walk.  Not for him.  Nope.

I'm scared for me.

I see the next Big Thing in front of me.  It's so exciting that it keeps me up at night.  It interrupts my mental musings and my real-time conversations.  It energizes me and even scares me a little bit.

But will I have the patience for the tummy time?  Will I have the confidence to advance - slowly, steadily, creakily, painfully - in the direction of my dreams?

In Walden, Thoreau writes:
I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.
Okay, Thoreau, I have the dream.  I imagine the life.  I want the success.

But what if the advance isn't a smooth one?  Will I have the confidence and the patience - the audacity - to keep moving forward anyway?

Are you good at setting goals?  Do you usually achieve the goals you set?  Are you comfortable with tummy time?

Image: tummy time! by methyl lives via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.


  1. I hate tummy time and thank you for re-introducing me to this concept in adulthood. A great metaphor!

    Delia Lloyd

  2. Like Delia, I adore this metaphor. What interests me immensely here is the degree to which we must force the steps in between now and our goal (tummy time). Like you said, your little guy will crawl. He will get there. Figure it out.

    But are things as organic with us adults? Does merely fashioning a goal and wanting it make us inch toward it, or do we have to take regimented (and perhaps not so fun) steps to get there?

    I'm not sure. But I am sure that I am super curious about your Next Big Thing. I have my guesses, but I am going to email you now and harass you!

    Great post.

  3. What a wonderful way to look at the goals we set! You're right, making the goal and achieving the goal usually involves lots of uncomfortable tummy time in the middle. I think sometimes I find it easier to roll over on my back and relax or spend too much time with my head stuck in the blanket. But when the goal is worth it, I keep trying.

  4. I hate tummy time. To wit, I want to have a national best seller but the thought of writing it is so daunting that I havent gotten very far. Im kinda waiting for it to write itself which is kinda not happening. :) But I am curious as to the BIG Thing....

  5. I am so with you...I'd much rather daydream about winning a pulitzer prize than sit and do writing exercises...I find every excuse to avoid my metaphorical tummy time, including creating new hobbies for myself. Goals? Lots of them. Dreams? Big ones. Discipline to reach or fulfill them? Nada. However, I do know that my boys didn't mind tummy time so much if I sat on the couch with them on my knees looking out at the living room...Maybe I just need a higher perch, a better view, then that in-between stage would be more appealing.

  6. You are oh, so, clever my friend. Tummy time, indeed.

    For me, tummy time is so difficult that I often just abandon ship rather than weather the discomfort, the shaky ground. I am not proud of this.

    I cannot wait to hear what is on the horizon for you! I know you will handle it with the tenacity you need.

  7. I don't like tummy time either. Sometimes, tummy time is necessary, sometimes you can get away with skipping it...depends on the project.

  8. LOVE the metaphor! I, too, hate "tummy time." In fact, I'm in a tummy time phase right now, and I'm going out of my skull. It's the "working through" phase, which is so necessary to the process but SO BORING and tedious. No WONDER kids don't want to learn to crawl and just jump to the main event. And I'm curious, if your "Big Thing" like my "Waiting Game?"

  9. Wonderful stuff. And while our motherships may not be parked in adjacent spaces today, they are surely in the same neighborhood. Next steps. Things that frighten us, good and bad. Some of us crawl before we walk, and feel the timeframe is longer than we'd like. Others seem to just get up and go. Sometimes we do both.

    Helpful, well-informed post. And wondering about that "next thing" of yours, and how it will develop.

  10. Mowing the yard. Plucking my eyebrows. Cleaning the house. These are all largely unpleasant activities. But their silver lining? Instant gratification! Or, within the confines of your metaphor - no tummy time!

    Sometimes those subtle intermediate steps are more frightening than large end-game type decisions because of the waiting required. With sweeping change the results tend to come quickly. But we take the small steps not really knowing if the path is right or the process is working.

    However, in spite of my affection for instant results, I am a big fan of the small step.

  11. I can completely relate! I hate those tummy time moments in life. I am in a place in life right now where I can see the next big thing and it feels so close but I keep procrastinating the little steps I need to make first in order to reach it. Regarding tummy time, my daughter hated it but still learned to crawl by 8 months so I guess maybe some steps it is okay to skip:)

  12. Oh I am on the very edge of my seat now. You have me wrapped around your finger in anticipation and excitement for you. It WILL be bumpy. You will shine.

    I think I am pretty good at going for and sometimes attaining my goals NOW. It helps being older, having kids, seeing life more clearly. I am putting this Thoreau quote up right in front of my nose Kristen. Thank You so very much.

    This photo of your kids really touched me - its just right.

  13. @BlogInSong et al: Full disclosure: those little cuties are not mine, just two cherubs I found on Flickr. The coloring and the ages look about right, but Big Boy and Tiny Baby they are not.

    And I'm glad I have everyone on the edge of their seats with my Big Thing quasi-revelation. Stay tuned! :)

  14. good metaphor for transition! As long as my perception and perspective is on target, I'm usually OK with the transition. Thank goodness for the serenity prayer.

  15. Hi Kristen, what a fitting metaphor and very well written.

    My son couldn't be bothered with tummy time. He rolled over and around a lot, crawled backwards, sideways then forward, bumped into large pieces of furniture, hurt himself a lot then started cruising.

    Maybe for grownups, some options aren't for everyone. Like my son, I suck at tummy time. Why do it if we can move in other, more fulfilling ways? What's an injury or two? Would they make us stronger? Could be fun learning to walk amongst those that already run...I hear giraffes can do that...great post. Thanks.

  16. That Thoreau quote sits on my desk at work--a framed version my Mom gave to me years ago. It seems fitting for my work as a career counselor!I love it because it's so realistic--more so than trite encouragements to "just believe". Keep trudging along--confidentally.

  17. Oh, I do not do well with tummy time. I do well with get up and go time. I need a goal, a deadline, and I'm ok. Given unlimited time to lounge around pondering whilst on my tummy, so to speak, and I will only do just that. Or put my head down and fall asleep, only to wake up and wonder why dinner hasn't yet been made.

    And as for kids and tummy time. I did it very little with my little ones, because they all hated it as well. All have seemed to done just fine without much of it. (Though, I suppose we'll have to wait twenty more years or so for the "tell all" book to come out to really see if this lack of tummy time truly did have a negative impact...)

  18. Love this post - mostly because it forces me to examine my own tummy time. I'm great at setting goals - not so great at the follow through. It's something I really wish I were better at.

  19. Ah, such wisdom, Kristen!
    A recent post from Penelope Trunk's blog really stuck with me, and I think it relates here. Being an expert, in any field, is really just about practice. Intense practice. Years of practice. So accept the tummy time as unavoidable, and get practicing.
    PS - You've peaked our curiosity about your next big thing!!

  20. Tummy-time; what a clever metaphor!
    And what adorable little guys!!

  21. I cannot stand tummy time! :)
    I just don't have the patience...

  22. At times it seems easier to jump in without the practice. However, tummy time is important. Like you said, eventually Tiny Baby will learn to crawl and learn to walk.
    Right now, I feel perched at the edge of cliff, wondering which direction to go. You have given me that little push I needed. Thanks!

  23. My son loved tummy time - so much that we started guessing that he wouldn't crawl at all but would instead move straight from floor-swimming to walking. He pulled up before he crawled.
    But then he backtracked.
    Sometimes I hate tummy time so much that I, too, try to skip it. Some people can (and babies, too, according to my What To Expect When...").
    But for me: Not so fast.

  24. I learned, through several disastrous mistakes, that I had to start over, with tummy time, so to speak! To take yourself down to that place again where you can admit that you don't know anything and are teachable, that you're at the ground level and willing to learn, it's an amazing thing. Of course, as long as soon you're up, crawling and then walking and tummy time is over!

  25. I am good at tummy time - a little TOO good, in fact. I break things down into small tasks and work at them doggedly, because I Do Not Quit. And I lose sight of what I'm even doing, and why, but still I Do Not Quit. Since I don't really adjust or course correct too much, I might end up crawling but not in the direction I wanted. Or I'll keep on crawling forever, and never learn to walk.

    I think the real secret of success lies in balancing all things, somehow.

  26. Ah, so that's what I'm doing right now. Tummy time. No wonder it's so unpleasant!

    I, too, tend to leap forward, charging towards my Next Thing, not just skipping the necessary little steps but refusing to acknowledge that they exist. My game plan for this project was supposed to force me to go through the requisite motions, and yet, here I am at the end of Week #2 having wholesale ignored the plan for a good five days. I still proclaim that this novel will be done 10 weeks from now, and yet the truth is, I am not doing what it takes to make that happen. It's like I expect to one day wake up with the ability to sprint through this thing without ever learning how to crawl. Or walk.

    Thanks for this post. Once again, a perfect metaphor.


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