Yesterday, I watched my beautiful baby girl fall ass over teakettle off our couch and land with a spectacular boom on our hardwood floor. If I’m honest with you, I’m shocked we made it 10 months before this happened. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve had to catch her. This fall was bound to happen. But babies learn fear by falling so this can only be a good thing, right?
When Hailey first learned to crawl she used to crawl right off the edge of the bed with no sense of caution. There was no fear as she headed over. In fact, there were often squeals of delight as I caught her. She will now stop at the edge of the bed, the top of the stairs, or the side of the couch and peer over. I’m guessing her many falls while learning to stand have given her a new appreciation of gravity.
What she hasn’t quite figured out is how much space it takes to move from a crawling position to a seated position. It’s this transition that has had her teetering on the edge lately and it was the culprit in yesterday’s fall.
Thankfully, she wasn’t hurt. There were almost no tears but the screaming lasted a while. I tried to calm her by cuddling her, taking her to the window to look out, physically going outside, singing, rocking…finally watching Frozen’s “Let it Go” video on youtube silenced her. Gotta love Disney! Maybe it was the reminder she needed that she could just “let it go” 🙂
The way I responded to this situation yesterday is proof that I am becoming a calmer parent. I felt no sense of panic or guilt. I just scooped her up and helped her deal with it. This was nothing like how I reacted when she dented her head on the windowsill just over a month ago. The guilt I felt then was overwhelming.
I consider this change in my reaction great news. I have a sneaking suspicion that there are more falls in our future.
Stumbles and bumps help us to learn. Pushing ourselves to our limits allows us to understand what we are capable of. It’s how we grow.
I don’t wish Hailey any harm and I’m not going to purposely let her to fall. But I’m also not going to hover. I refuse to live in constant fear of her hurting herself. As sure as I am that there will be many falls in our future I’m also sure that I will be there to catch her as much as I can.
Fear is a learned behaviour. I want her to learn that there are dangers in the world. Having a sense of fear gives us caution, warns us of risks, and prevents us from harm. Fear is only an issue when it stops us from doing something we want to do.
Being fearful and doing it anyways is one of the most exhilarating feelings I’ve experienced. So later in the day yesterday, I was happy to see Hailey crawl over to the same spot on the couch where she took her tumble. She was noticeably more cautious in her approach but I was thrilled she wasn’t scared completely away from the edge.
The lure of the coasters on the end table was too great and she wasn’t going to let a silly little thing like fear stop her. It may have slowed her down a bit but it definitely is not going to stop her.
I know one day soon Hailey will be able to sit on the edge of the couch with an awareness of how to remain seated without uncontrollably falling to the ground. The fall yesterday was a small failure on her path to acquiring this skill.
Fear and failure are both great teachers.
Failure indicates our limits and gives us a new vantage point which allows us to change our approach. It helps us succeed if we can get over the fear of failing.
Fear warns us to be cautious and it’s up to us to assess the risk. It’s our choice whether to use fear to our advantage or to allow it to paralyze us.
My role as Hailey’s mother is not to prevent her from falling or failing. I’m not here to feather her nest. It’s my role to help her assess the risk and determine if the reward is worth the risk. I’m here to help her understand how fear and failure can propel her forward to grow into a better person and be successful at achieving her goals.
So, I’m not feeling guilty about the fall yesterday. I consider it part of the learning process and a step in the right direction.