One of the worst moments as a mother is when you hear a crash and a blood-curdling scream in the other room. Then when you go to address the cause of your heart attack, you find a child with a mouth full of blood.
My sixteen-month-old has a tendency to catch the full weight of his body on his upper lip when he falls.
|If you can’t see it, that’s a swollen lip right there. Again.|
I don’t remember much of my own experience, but it’s pretty rough being a toddler. As a mom, I love/hate going to the playground. The boys have so much fun, but inevitably we leave with scrapes, blood and bruises. Wood chips and dirt are stuck in hair, on clothes and in shoes.
With my second boy now exercising his full freedom in mobility, one of the lessons I’ve been forced to learn is that sometimes you just have to let them fall.
When my oldest son James was the only child, I was able to hover over him at the playground. I thought he needed me there. That kid has way too much reckless abandon. I’m pretty sure he would walk off the edge of a cliff because it looked like fun.
Then Jonathan was born and I couldn’t hover over James all the time anymore. So he pulled some crazy stunts. In our family portraits we had to have his forehead Photo Shopped because it had a huge scrape on it. Another time we went to the ER because he tried to climb our dresser and pulled the whole thing over.
Miraculously, he survived—even more miraculously, without any stitches, concussions or broken bones (knock on wood).
Ah but it’s summer time again and now we have James’ little brother attempting his luck at climbing just about everything. I think I’ve mentioned this before, but whenever we go to the doctor for a checkup, he has some nasty bruise or cut on his head. I’m a little surprised I’ve never been investigated.
It’s impossible to protect both of my kids unless they’re asleep or strapped into the double stroller (James likes this option less and less these days). And so what happens? They fall down and hurt themselves.
But something special happened the other day. They were both running around like madmen on the equipment at one of our favorite parks. And I wasn’t worried about them! I just sat back and watched. They had discovered their limits. James had mastered every part of the structure that he could reach. And Jonathan had most of it down; he just stayed away from the edges that were too high for him to climb or slide down.
Who taught them how to traverse the playground safely? Not me! If they took my advice they would stay in the grass. All of those bruises and scrapes—which I felt so bad about—have taught them to know their limits. At the same time they’re continually stretching those limits. It amazes me how many times both of them have gone back to the same activity that caused an injury, as if the injury never happened. It drives me crazy when I watch, but somehow they manage to figure out how to repeat the activity but not the injury.
I know this is just the beginning for me as a parent. How many times throughout their lives will they fall—and I’ll just have to watch and let it happen. No helping. No hovering. They will get hurt. My heart will ache for them and I will soothe them, but I cannot teach them how to climb or prevent all of the falls. Climbing, like many of life’s lessons, cannot really be taught. They’ll just have to figure it out.
But each fall will help them get closer to the top.
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