When a young child learns to walk, nearby adults heap praise on the kid for a job well done, as if no other child in the history of the human race had ever walked before.

It’s a little bit like that when an old person does some walking, even though that’s something the person has been doing as naturally as breathing in and breathing out for 70 or 80 or more years. I think I’ve written before a time or two how growing up and growing old have a number of similarities.

As some people know, Nancy and I have been providing day care for a great-granddaughter while her parents work (hopefully to keep the Social Security and Medicare systems afloat). We began taking the child into our home when she was 3 months old. She celebrated her first birthday earlier this month, so we’ve witnessed countless changes in the things she says and does. Walking is one of those things.

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She began walking some weeks before her first birthday. It seemed early to me, but what do I know. I do know that, even though her steps were halting and uncertain, the moment she rose from a crawling position to standing on her own two feet, we had to be extra vigilant in watching where she was and what she was about. What I remember most, though, is how incredibly excited her parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles were that she could walk. It was, as I said, as if no other child had ever thought of standing up.

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I had my annual wellness exam a month ago, and I got the “Wow, who’d have thought it possible’’ treatment for walking, too. I’m 77. I’ve been walking since I was about a year old. It’s just something I do. My doctor, though, said to me, “This office is in third floor. If the elevator had been broken today, could you have walked up two flights of stairs?’’

“Well, sure,’’ I said. “I took the stairs today.’’

“Oh, impressive,’’ he said. Later, when I accessed my online medical chart, I noticed he’d made a specific note that I’d walked the stairs that day. The thing is, I usually take stairs when I can. That way I avoid getting into an elevator with strangers who might want to make small talk. I didn’t mention that. He seemed so proud of me.

I got in the habit of taking the stairs when I reported from the state Capitol building. During legislative sessions, the elevators are packed, and it isn’t unusual to get in and discover that a visiting senior government class has punched the buttons for every floor. People who have been around the building quickly learn the stairs are faster than the elevators, and the back stairs are faster than the ornate, marble ones. Maybe walking stairs helped me keep weight off even though I ate every cookie I saw in the place, all day every day.

And weight? The great-granddaughter gained praise in her one-year checkup for gaining a couple of pounds. She also drew raves for adding a couple of inches. She’s getting longer and stronger. Her health care provider is pleased, as are her parents. From what I can see, she doesn’t concentrate on those things. She just lives each day.

Me, I earned some praise – and a note in my medical chart – for weighing in three pounds lighter than a year ago. I also got an "Atta Boy" for measuring 5-11, the same as I did last year. The child gets praise for gaining. I get praise for losing weight and not getting shorter.

I actually do kind of watch my weight – my body mass index, anyway. See, I was a little over 6-1 in high school. I’ve shrunk more than two inches, most of it in the last four or five years. If my weight doesn’t drop, if it just stays the same, my BMI still goes up because I’m shorter. Not much I can do about shrinking, so I kind of watch my weight.

The great-granddaughter eats as much as she wants and quits when she’s full. Her BMI doesn’t seem to bother her.