Having two children, it’s inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between them. For example, Jack was born with clubbed feet and was casted to the knee on both legs at only three days old. Though his left foot was corrected within a month, his right foot was so severely inverted that it required additional casting, two separate operations, physical therapy and a corrective splint worn at night after the casts were finally removed. When even those measures didn’t work, as a last resort we allowed the Orthopedic Surgeon to perform a radical and experimental cybernetic procedure in which Jack’s foot was replaced with a metal endoskeleton and then covered with living tissue. Though the operation was successful in correcting Jack’s foot, every couple of weeks it travels back in time to kill Sarah Conner.
We thought that having a surgically repaired time traveling cybernetic foot programmed to kill a woman in the past whose unborn son will lead the human race to victory in a bitter future war with a race of machines might cause Jack to be self-conscious or even slow him down, but to see him run, climb and play with his non-partially synthetic friends you wouldn’t know he was born with bi-lateral club feet. In fact, he has gone so far as to embrace the very physical limitation he had to overcome by opening an exclusive ultra-hip discothèque called Club Füt that plays only German Industrial Techno music and is slated for launch in October of this year. Jack tells me that Rammstein is headlining opening night with other bands from the Neue Deutsche Härte-scene and, fingers crossed, David Hasselhoff filling out the bill.
Despite the casts, the multiple surgeries, a doctor’s warning that he might be two years old before he walks and his Dysmelial association with Cyberdyne Systems’ revolutionary neural net-based artificial intelligence called Skynet Jack still took his first step when he was 14 months old. Based on what Jack had to overcome to walk months ahead of all medical and scientific predictions I calculated a timeline in which a perfectly healthy baby, without any physical limitations to prevent an accelerated foray on bipedalism, like say our second child Adam, could theoretically take his first steps within a week to 10 days of delivery. Unfortunately, even with several recalculations of the timeline and countless controlled experiments to test the validity of the algorithm, at 10 ½ months Adam has still not walked.
Many parents have given us their unsolicited opinions in this matter offering advice that provided little comfort or guidance for us, but allowed them the chance to extol the unparalleled brilliance of their Baby Einstein playing ambulatory wunderkinds (My Katie walked at 7 months, my Timmy ran at 6 months, my Emily did a back handspring out of my vagina) while silently pitying with a subtle head shake and muffled Tsk Tsk Tsk that poor wretched Gathen child who still gets around like a common house pet. The one gem though that gave me pause was the counsel that, “He’ll walk when he’s ready.” I took this to mean that Adam may already have the ability to walk, but is for some reason choosing not to. What if he’s never ready? What if he never sees the point in walking? What if David Hasselhoff can’t perform on opening night at Club Füt?
To date, Adam has several alternatives to walking. The most common form of travel he uses is the traditional crawl that regularly transitions into downward facing dog. Even though he demonstrates rapid acceleration (0 mph – 1 mph in 4.3 seconds) sustainable over long distances it always looks like he lost a contact lens in the middle of a yoga class.
He also has recently become quite adept at walking with help from his Little Tikes Shopping Cart, his baby walker, the upright vacuum, and his high chair, but what future can he expect if he can only move about with aid from wheeled objects? Homeless person, grocery store shopping cart attendant, in-flight beverage server, X-Games participant, NASCAR Driver?
One of his latest maneuvers is the cruising transfer move from table to chair, or couch to ottoman, or Little Tike Shopping Cart to my bottom lip, but he still refuses to let go, to take that first tentative step towards toddlerism. He’ll even lean against the kitchen wall in a spot on James Dean pose, but as we encourage him to walk towards us with beckoning hands he sinks slowly to the floor like Jimmy Stewart in Vertigo sporting a look on his face that says, “You want me so bad? You come pick my ass up.”
How cruel will the other kids be if Adam is never ready to walk? What collection of hurtful nicknames will they give a classmate who moves about on all fours, staggering around grasping at anything to help keep his balance before ultimately toppling face first to the ground? Crawl? Leaner? Stumbles? Lindsay Lohan?
Even as I write this post though, my fears of having a son who resists evolution are ebbing as he just spent an hour walking back and forth along the couch intermittently letting go to take brave yet hesitant steps towards the footrest. Perhaps I’m assigning too much importance to Adam’s physical accomplishments and should instead concentrate on nurturing his intellectual development, although now that I think about it he hasn’t said his first word yet either. (My Katie said her first word at 7 months, my Timmy said nursery rhymes at 6 months, my Emily recited Shakespeare out of my vagina) OK … Your kid is awesome and mine is a nattering quadruped… I get it. Keep it up and I’m going to have DJ LückyFin lay down a funky beat while my other son puts his bionic foot up your ass.