Hard Knocks

zoe

“Wow she’s a little trouper. She doesn’t cry when she falls over. How did that happen?”
I’ve gotten enough comments and questions about the way Zoe trips that I think it’s time to address it here. I think it’s a really interesting concept with a lot of deeper implications that is almost universally mishandled.

Why doesn’t Zoe cry 80% of the time when she falls over? It’s not magic. It’s not voodoo. And it’s certainly not the result of a calm temperament on her part. Anyone that has ever met her can attest to the hilarity of that assessment. The lass is a wee bit high strung.

I just don’t react. That’s it. I don’t rush over to her. I don’t make a sound. My facial muscles don’t even twitch. Then if she’s really hurt she will let out a very obvious and blood-curdling scream after which I will quietly pick her up and soothe her. If she’s not, she simply picks herself up and resumes whatever she was previously doing.

It’s natural to want to protect our little angels– particularly when they are indeed so little– but the fact that it is natural doesn’t make it healthy. Tough shit happens in life and bad things will happen to our dear ones, even if they are our children. The bumps, bruises and scrapes will come with or without our consent. The most we can do is set an example for our children of how to handle these injuries, physical and emotional.

That’s no small thing. That’s enough.

When we fuss and coddle our children we may think we are expressing love to them but the real motivation at work here is worry, another word for fear. Fear and love are mutually exclusive. Children pick up on our fear. When we scurry after them we are unintentionally teaching them that they have been hurt rather than allowing them to make that assessment on their own. We are teaching them that there is something to be scared of with falling. We’re training them.

Kids just want to know that we care about them and pay attention to them. They want a calm and steady assurance from us, not wild and exaggerated public displays of concern. Right now this only applies to trips to the playground but think about how this will manifest itself in the future. When our children don’t get into their dream schools, lost a best friend, or sustain more serious physical injuries, they don’t need us to cry with them. They just want to know that we’re there and that we have faith that they will be okay. 

In our own lives we are (hopefully) grateful for the trying times we’ve overcome for the wisdom and experience we left with. Our children are entitled to the same lessons, no matter how difficult in the moment. Why begrudge them that?

Since I don’t catch Zoe every time she falls she has learned how to fall softly, on her backside or her hands. She’s decided that she doesn’t yet like inclines and takes it very slowly with steps. And most of the time when she falls she doesn’t miss a beat. She’s resilient.

I’m not doing anything extraordinary or miraculous that anyone can’t do. I’m simply not interfering with Zoe’s natural growth. I trust that with time, she will figure it out. And I don’t want to shield her from any part of life.

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