Friday, March 13, 2009

Letting her fall

As anyone who's had a baby knows, mommyhood makes you do lots of things that you never imagined for yourself. Picking someone else's boogers is among the first things that comes to mind. Not to mention getting exasperated with nonmommy friends who 'just don't understand' and wishing that there actually was a way to put the baby in a bubble. I find myself shocked by my own lack of spare time and inability to put myself somewhere (anywhere!) on the list of priorities. Nobody could have convinced me that I would be like that and here I sit wondering when the last time I was alone and not doing something for anyone else.

There is a book in the rest of this conversation, for sure. It is titled, Hello, You: The Embarrassing Ways in Which Motherhood Will Change a Perfectly Good, Strong, Independent, Feminist and Make Her Like Every Other Suburban Mother in the Country . . .

It's a working title.

Amelia is crawling about and exploring the world. As it turns out, this crawling, exploratory phase intersects directly with the everything-goes-into-my-mouth phase, making the world a pretty dangerous place. I don't know whose idea this was, but it was poor planning all around. A favorite part of this new world is the discovery of doors and drawers. They have cool handles and knobs that, when pulled, open to a whole new discovery. And really, aren't handles and knobs fun enough?! (Why did that sound dirty? Jeez.) Depending on what lies behind said doors and drawers, the biggest danger in this fascination is getting a tiny little finger stuck in a hinge or closed in as the other little fingers slam said doors and drawers shut.

As The Mommy, my role in this experiment is precarious at best. I have an innate need to keep tiny fingers in tact. A biological function that preserves the little appendages. And as The Mommy, I must also let Amelia learn about the world around her. The world sometimes hurts little fingers, as it sometimes hurts little toes, little noses, and little hearts. The world can be tricky like that.

So the question then is, do you let her fall even if the fall might hurt? What if falling a couple times might keep her from falling again?

It's a fine line, but one that I am willing to toe. I believe that allowing Amelia to fall here and there, to catch a finger or two actually does her a favor. (Of course, I would never let her get really hurt or put herself in any danger in front of me, but I know that you are smart enough to get that.) If I prevent my daughter from experiencing tiny pains, disappointment, frustrationd haven't I then opened her up to a harsh world that will not spare her in the same way?

Girls fall especially prey to this overly protective parenting. The Princess Problem has parents treating their little girls like porcelain dolls, fragile, but pretty at all costs. And then as she enters adulthood, she struggles to have confidence in her abilities and relies too heavily on others to shield her from risks, spinning from the harsh reality that is a world of doomed princesses.
If we don't let them fail, then how can they achieve? Our biggest accomplishments as adults are born out of the times in which we risked failure and won. Beating failure and not falling are the things that I hold most true to my confidence and worth.
If we never let them risk failure and always catch them before they fall, how can we also teach them to take risks, to succeed, and to watch their step?

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