While I was at my favorite, kid-friendly coffee shop last week, another mom commented on my demeanor. “You must have other kids,” she said as I sat and watched as my 9-month old son crawled over to the bookshelf and attempted to pull himself up to standing.
“I have a 7-year-old,” I responded, not moving from where I was sitting but not taking my eyes off of my youngest child as he failed, several times, to get himself up on his own before finally managing to stand up and reach for a book.
Just before she said something, I had been observing her and her baby who was around the same age as mine. She kept saying, “be careful,” and putting her hand in front of her head so she wouldn’t bump into anything and catching her from falling when she began crawling too fast and was just about ready to land on her tummy. She followed her like a shadow and her daughter seemed to anticipate her moves ahead of time.
She didn’t seem relaxed. She didn’t seem to be enjoying herself and I almost felt as though she were accusing me of neglecting my son instead of playing defense between him and the floor or the objects around him that would continue to challenge him and his abilities.
I let my older son fall, and fail, often, too. But both of my boys know that I’m always there for them. I hold them when they need comforting and I always cheer them on and celebrate when they accomplish something for the first time. I encourage them to take risks, to reach for what might at first seem impossible and I let them know that I’m there if and when they need my help.
Asking for help is not always easy. Falling, and failing, is certainly not fun and I don’t like seeing them fail, or fall, but I know that my place, my role in their life, is not to hold their hand the entire time but to hold their hearts and encourage them by showing how much I trust that they’ll be OK, even when they do fall and make mistakes.
We all stumble. And we all make mistakes or attempt things that we’re not quite ready for. That’s how we learn. That’s how we learn that it’s ok to reach out and ask someone else for assistance. It’s something I know I don’t do often enough but when I remember, I make sure to ask my son for advice or request my husband’s help when coming up with a solution to a problem that I might not know how to solve on my own.
Modeling the behaviors and communication skills we hope our children will embrace as they grow up is they key to ensuring that they have the tools necessary to pull themselves back up when they do fall, to learn from their failures and to support those around them to do the same.
Have you let your child fail today?