Parenting an early walker

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Watching your child take their first wobbly steps has got to be one of the best parenting highs you'll ever experience. But with that high comes a new reality: you are now the parent of a walker, and life will never be the same again.

According to Robin Barker, author of the book Baby Love, most babies start walking between the ages of 12 and 14 months. Little ones that master the art before their first birthday are therefore early walkers. And while their parents are probably proud as punch, parenting an early walker can bring with it some unexpected challenges.

My eldest was 11 months when she took her first steps and then she was off; running, climbing, and generally creating the sort of chaos usually associated with a tropical hurricane.

My initial pride gave way to exasperation. She couldn't be left alone for a second - if I turned my back to pop the kettle on I would return to find her running around on the dinning room table. She had no concept of danger and seemed to have gone straight from 'new walker' to full-blown 'adrenalin junkie dare devil'.

Lazy afternoons with my friends and their babies became a thing of the past. There was no more lounging around on picnic blankets for me. No more relaxing in the shade. Instead I would give my friends a frazzled wave as I ran passed them, chasing G, who was hell-bent on catching a pigeon.  

I have a lot of sympathy for parents whose children started walking even earlier than my daughter did. My friend Deb tells me that her son started walking at 10 months. Like me, she found being the mother of an early walker hard work.

"I couldn't keep up with him. Developmentally his body was faster than his brain - so he had no sense about spaces and heights. He climbed bookcases and flew off them, he scaled all furniture that I thought was toddler proof. Watching him like a hawk was exhausting," she recalls.

Annaleis, whose daughter walked at nine months, also says that she found the experience stressful. "My daughter used to get lost in her own house. She had no idea of danger and thought climbing on top of a chair or on top of a table was fun! My poor heart nearly didn't survive," she says.

There is another, more emotional challenge of parenting an early walker, and that is a premature end to the baby phase; whether you like it or not, your little one is growing up before your eyes. As Annaleis puts it: "The baby you want for longer disappears, and suddenly you have a toddler."

Of course, like many other parenting challenges, there are some silver linings. For a lot of parents with early walkers, the advantage of having a walker is that they no longer have a crawler – and that means the end of worrying about what they are crawling in or through. I will admit that I didn't mind seeing the back of grassy, muddy crawling stains all over G's clothes.

Thankfully, as she got older, G grew out of her climbing-all-over-the-furniture phase, and now saves all her best moves for our local park. She still likes to run, but now she's a big girl I don't have to run after her. In fact, I can watch her bombing around the park from the comfort of a picnic blanket.