Thursday, February 24, 2022

Letting My Kids Fall

Last week, the boys (B the 3-year-old and D the 5-year-old) went for a walk next to the Virgin River in St. George. Near the river is a bike/walk path that had two very steep hills. Before we got out of the car, I warned the boys that the hill was steep and told them not to ride their scooters until we got to the flat part near the river. B immediately got on his scooter, taking off quickly down the hill. As I yelled "STOP!!!" running after him, he jumped from his scooter, landed on loose dirt, and fell hard right before the more dangerous drop off. 

The Art of Falling #3 by Nathalie Labaki
As I helped B from his fall and again warned him not to continue down the next really steep hill, D told me he used his break, proud of himself for managing the first hill. As I examined B for any blood, breaks, sprains, etc., D took off down the next dangerous hill. I remember turning my head just as his body launched off the scooter, watching him roll 3 times, skidding to an immediate halt. It all happened so quickly. I yelled/swore and ran down the hill...praying that B wouldn't jump on his scooter while my back was turned.

D was a champ. Hurt, ABSOLUTELY, but a champ nonetheless. Several onlookers watched as I examined him. Among the commotion I hear, "ON YOUR LEFT" as D's incredibly audible sobs echoed under the bridge. I didn't dare move him until I knew his body was in tact and the 'jerk face' biker had the audacity to keep his pace while passing us....I digress (forgive my humanity).

One sweet angel woman came and gave us water to help clean his wounds. 

Asking what my next step was, I thought about what I was going to do. I wasn't sure. I thanked her as she left. 

D was in pain, his wounds needed cleaning, and it was an uphill climb to the car. He sat next to me shaking and uncontrollably crying. It was hard seeing him hurt so badly. It was also hard for me not to be slightly angry that this could have been prevented if only he had listened the first time.

Against my nature, and thankfully, I didn't try to fix or mend immediately. I also didn't get upset with him or tell him he should have listened to his mom. I sat next to him. I don't remember offering him words. I felt in the moment that he needed to be in his pain and that talking to him would only exacerbate the situation. I watched him as he went through the broad range of emotion. Every time he looked at his bleeding wounds, he cried louder. He went from shock and fear to hurt and pain and back again.

After a couple of minutes, while B scampered off to throw rocks in the river, I finally spoke to him. "D, what do you want to do? We can go home and wash your "owies" and watch some movies and relax, or we can stay and throw rocks in the river." He cried out. He was so excited about throwing rocks in the river earlier. This decision seemed to create more pain for him. But, I waited for his answer.

Through his tears, he said, "Let me see if I can hold a rock." He picked up a rock and said, "Oh, that's not so bad." Immediately, he stopped crying, got up from where we were sitting and said, "I want to stay and throw rocks."

We ended up throwing rocks in the river for 2 hours.

When we decided to cross the bridge to the other side, I ran into an angel friend from my past. We ended up catching up on life and in the process of our updates I asked her what she does to help her child with resilience; where does she step in; where does she allow a fall? She was exactly the person I needed to speak to at that moment to help me process everything that happened.

It is hard to see my children fall (physically, emotionally, spiritually), but my friend reminded me to look at how much they learn when they do...just like me, right? Obviously, I want to protect my kids from doing something dangerous, but also allowing falling to happen.

I see/hear this analogy a lot: when people compare the falls in life to watching toddlers learn how to walk. There is so much strength in that metaphor. 

Some things I can tell you about this incident that took me by a welcome surprise:

  • While my initial reaction to D falling felt uncontrolled (my immediate gut reaction), I was impressed with myself for how I handled what happened after my gut reaction. Like I said earlier, it is not in my typical nature to "wait and see". I  typically try fix or mend it, but instead, I waited until D was ready to tell me what he wanted to do. 

  • It was amazing to see D move through his varying stages until he was ready to make a choice. I have been worried about him for a long time - his adaptability, his beautiful and sensitive heart, how he feels about himself, how hard he is on himself already as a 5 year old. Watching him move through pain, (which was also painful for me), allowed me to see his beauty, his emotional heart, his problem solving skills, his resilience, and his ability to seek joy after all of it.

I cried to see this incredible young man. This moment was truly a gift from God. It was one of the first times, I have seen D through heavenly eyes. see who this young man will become.

This experience makes me wonder if this is how our Heavenly Parents work. They watch us fall, help dust us off, wait for us to respond until we are ready, and then ask us what we want to do now - seeing our magnificence in our response, whatever that is.

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