Helping our kids gain independence
As parents and carers it is one of our great privileges (and challenges) is helping our kids gain independence and equip them to be ready for the world. We get to help them learn to handle tough situations and emotions alongside us, ready for that day when they have to do it without us. Whether it’s for nursery, school, or university, we’re constantly helping our kids to gain independence to try things on their own over and over again.
Watching him fall
Yesterday my toddler fell off a climbing frame from quite a height. He was at my hand height with my arms stretched out so probably about 7ft. It was one of those awful heart in stomach moments as I watched him fall.
The bridge was basically a plank of wood with ropes to hold on to for balance. Thinking about it now, what a dangerous bridge to have 7ft up?! I’d been watching the little guy toddle around the climbing frame. He’d walked up to the bridge once already. I’d watched him decide he couldn’t do it and potter off to a wider bridge which required less balance.
I was stood only a couple of metres away watching when he wandered back to it again. He looked like he was considering it so I began slowly making my way. In that moment he made a decision that he could do it. One foot onto the plank, and then the second foot missed and he fell.
He twisted as he fell and landed on his back. He was wearing a hoody and the hood flew up under his head as he fell. The ground was fairly soft bark/mulch so thankfully it was a softer landing than it could have been.
As I saw him fall and ran towards him, I thought nothing apart from wanting to grab him and hold him close. Thankfully, as I saw him land the ground I had a gut feeling that he was ok. He cried immediately and want a cuddle right away. I held him close as he sobbed.
His body was fine. He’d bitten his tongue so his mouth was full of blood but after a few minutes of cuddling he sat down with a snack and quickly returned to normal. He really is incredible. I could not have pulled myself back together so quickly if that had happened to me.
I wonder if much of parenthood is probably more traumatic for us as parents. It’s really important for us to process things in the moment so we figure out how we’re going to react and what our response will teach our children. My kid wanted a cuddle but then he wanted to be left to eat his snack. I could have fussed but that might have told him that his response wasn’t a brilliant and admirable one, which it was.
Everyday in this stage of toddlerhood I’m finding that the little guy is getting more bold, more brave and more independent. There are so many moments, where I’ve previously thought, ‘oh he can’t do that yet’ or ‘he won’t do that yet’, where he’s clearly decided, ‘today’s the day!’ There’s no knowing what he might attempt.
Should I have stopped him going on the climbing frame? No. I don’t think so. He could do the big bridges and he could do the slide. Should I have hovered nearer the plank bridge ready to catch him? Possibly. But I’m not totally convinced. (I certainly will next time though!) You’d have thought that after a fall like that a toddler might think, ‘Ok, I know I can’t do that now’ but actually it’s the opposite. I now know he’ll attempt it again. He’s learnt that he might fall that he’ll be fine, which is terrifying!
However, although I want to protect him, hold him close and make sure no harm comes to him, I also want him to gain independence and to become his own person. The reality is, I cannot be hovering next to every challenge that he will undertake. But, what I can do is be ready to comfort, to talk, to process the challenges (and possibly attempt to catch him)!
I can already imagine the similar post I might write one day when my kid is ready to leave home. This really may be a struggle for the whole of motherhood.