Last week, Dilip picked Syona up on his way home from work (she spent the day at his parents’ house) and as she walked in the she was greeted with the same smothering smooches she is every single day. But this time, I saw her face and took a step back. For the first time, Syona was sporting a shiner, bump on her forehead and bruise on her cheek.
I asked Dilip what happened and he explained that Syona was wearing her glasses and sitting on a chair. Although her sitting is getting better, she does have some issues with trunk control and she fell — face first — into the table and toy that was in front of her. This happened on my mother-in-law’s watch and she felt so guilty. I immediately called her and told her not to worry or feel bad, that Syona was fine, and that if she was a “typically developing” child she would have had her fair share of bruises by now. And Syona really was fine; her mini injury has not bothered her in the least. I also reminded my amazing, wonderful, dedicated mother-in-law that we’ve all had little mishaps with Syona. Because Syona isn’t as mobile as other kids, she doesn’t explore in quite the same way. She also spends a lot of time surrounded by adults who always have an eye on her safety, which is a good thing.
However, one of the things we need to be conscious of is exposing Syona to an appropriate level of rough and tumble exploration and fun. I remember when she was an infant and we were trying to teach her to sit up. Her physiotherapist asked if we ever let her fall. I explained that we would catch her. The physiotherapist suggested that we surround Syona with pillows and allow her to fall to start developing her protective reflexes (e.g. give Syona a chance to stop herself from falling using her own arms vs. us always saving her). So we did. I would literally sit on my hands a few feet away from Syona so she could practice falling. It sounds so simple but was a really hard thing to do — after all, we are hard-wired to protect our kids, right?
That was really the first of so many lessons that taught me to let go and allow Syona a chance to take risks and learn through trial and error (and I know there are so many more lessons ahead of me).
When I’m watching her try to accomplish certain tasks — like stacking cups on top of one another — it is so easy for me to step in and do it for her. But I know the true value lies in stepping back and letting her try on her own, despite the fact that the cups fall down each and every time. I know this is valuable because, after a certain point, Syona asks me for help. When she asks, I hold the bottom cups steady so she can stack them up. This gives her a chance to do it herself and puts the power back in her hands. And teaching her to ask for help when she needs it is a valuable skill that she will need to use in the years to come.
It’s the same thing as getting a bit bruised and bumped. After all, sometimes we all have moments where we fall down. And at that point we have a choice — get up and dust ourselves off or ask for the help that we need. I think it is important for Syona to have the same choices.
Tweet me @AnchelK and tell me how your kids react to their bumps and bruises. Do your children ask for help when they need it?