Vail Daily column: The learning curve | VailDaily.com
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Vail Daily column: The learning curve

Kelly Coffey
The Novice Father
Vail, CO Colorado

A single step separates the kitchen from the living room in my house. The living room is littered with baby toys (it is also the most baby-proofed room in the house). Thanks to that setup, I got into the habit of plopping my 11-month old daughter on the living room floor and then going about my business around the house.

For the longest time that single step acted as a great barrier. The Kid would crawl to it, perch her arms on the higher level, and just stare at the goings-on in the kitchen. She could never figure out how to climb over the 6-inch wall. Whenever I turned my back I could count on her always stuck in the living room.

Then one day she figured it out. She got over the step and earned free reign over the whole house. I no longer count on her being in one spot at all times. I no longer count on my slacker babyproofing attempts elsewhere in the house.

Watching the Kid through this learning process, I never see a standard rate of progress. Instead I see nothing … nothing … nothing… then pop, she did it. Suddenly the progress goes Bode Miller fast.

I see that same learning curve in things I try to do as an adult: the long struggle with seemingly no progress. Then, pop, success rains down like it was the easiest thing in the world.

Watching the Kid with these successes, I remind myself to be patient with my own learning curve: the progress I make in my career, saving up for retirement, becoming a better skier.

It’s easy for me to get frustrated with lack of progress. I want to quit when I’m up against a seemingly insurmountable wall. It’s watching the Kid’s successes that reminds me that success may not be that far away from me either.

Now the Kid climbs a whole flight of steps. The only problem is she can’t figure out how to get down them … gracefully, at least. And so the baby gate at the top of the steps is matched with a baby gate at the bottom.

She even found away to climb onto the bottom shelve of a console we keep next to our dining room table. She would climb up, sit down on it, and put on a satisfied facial expression that said: “Check me out.”

Lacking the ability to get back down on the floor, she would quickly tire of her spot and go about crying until her mother or I would help her down.

The new project is getting down the step. Again we see the Kid going through the long struggles. She experiments with different body arrangements: head first, arms first, butt first. She commits too much and falls down the step onto her face. She cries. I console her.

I haven’t seen progress from these struggles down the step yet. But when she gets it, she’ll own it.

Those times when I fall flat on my face, it’s a little easier to get back up and try again.

Kelly Coffey is a novice father. He shares his mistakes, fears, and laughs along his journey to figure out how anybody could possibly raise a child. Submit comments to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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