“Wow… good for you!” our family doctor said, looking shocked. I was taken aback. I hadn’t actually done anything. My little J had been doing his usual climbling in the doctor’s office and his body was all twisted up as he tried to make his way down off a chair. My instinct was to move in and catch him before he fell. Better safe than sorry. But instead, I took a deep breath, and told myself, “He’s got this.” This simple check on myself is something I do one hundred times a day.
The doctor went on to congratulate me on not intervening with J. He told me how rare it is that he sees a parent let her child take a risk like that without stepping in. He said seeing a child in action helps him evaluate the child’s motor skills, something he used to do all the time earlier in his career, before parents began to monitor their kids’ every move. I had come to a conclusion that my kids needed the experience of mastery that comes from trying things and realizing you have a capability you didn’t know you had. I also knew my kids would fail. I figured they would need to learn their own limits, rather than assume I knew their limits, and take those on as their own. I had been down that road with my parents, and subsequently spent my twenties figuring out what I really could and couldn’t do.
A few months ago we were on the playground. J walked over to the edge of the jungle gym. I was right behind him. I had that urge to move him away from the edge, but I reminded myself that neither he nor O have ever jumped off. J proceeded to jump off. It was a good number of feet down, and he was pretty shaken up, although not hurt. I did a lot of soul-searching that day. I was standing right there. I should have stopped that from happening! But the more I thought about it, the more I thought about all the amazing things my kids had learned they could do on that playground without getting hurt. To prevent that one fall, I would have had to deny them all those experiences.