I’ve watched a lot of kids learn to walk, to run and to climb. It’s always been a bit nerve wracking. I’ve held my breath as toddlers teetered and kids momentarily lost their balance at the top of the play structure. I’ve treated plenty of scrapes and bruises. Still, nothing could have prepared me for watching my own child learn to navigate the world.
We didn’t have too many spills when B learned to walk. He was so comfortable crawling that he waited until walking was pretty easy before he set his mind to it. But now, as he pushes his limits, climbing higher and moving faster, the inevitable scrapes and bruises are more frequent.
It’s a physical reaction for me when I see my son fall. My body tenses up. My heart beats faster. I want to run over and scoop him up. Make sure he’s alright. Brush him off. Wipe his tears.
But I don’t.
Instead, I say, “It looks like you fell down.” If he’s not back on his feet by then, I might offer some suggestions. “How are you going to get up? Maybe if you roll over that way…”
Sometimes, I talk about what happened. “It looks like you were running fast and slipped on this loose gravel.” I try to offer information to help him learn why he fell. That is, if he’s not already up and running again.
If there are tears, I acknowledge them. “It looks like that hurt. You fell and bumped your head.”
All the while I stay as outwardly calm as I can. I get close if I feel he needs me to, but I don’t run over. I don’t scoop him up.
I want B to learn that he is a capable person. That he is strong enough to pick himself up when things don’t go his way. I want him to learn that he can easily overcome bumps in the road.
I want him to learn how to use and trust his body. I want him to enjoy moving, exercising and exploring the world. I want him to learn his limits in a safe environment – and how he can move past those limits if he chooses.
If I rush to him and scoop him up every time he falls, I’ll be depriving him of the opportunity to learn those things.
There are times when I will pick up my son after he falls down. If it’s unsafe for him to stay where he fell, or he’s injured, I get there fast. If he asks for help, I lend a hand. I want B to learn to be compassionate and helpful, and that I’ll always be there when he needs me. I also want him to grow up to be confident and capable, so when I’m not there to help, he’ll be able to take care of himself.
So, as hard as it is, I watch. I acknowledge. I hold my breath if I have to. I let B live and learn. And when I see him fall down, only to pick himself back up, brush of his hands and keep on going, I know I’m doing the right thing.