Small Risks

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Sometime last spring, when my twins were about 15 months old, I decided it was no longer safe for me to take them to our local playground by myself. It was shortly after my daughter almost walked off the edge of a three foot high platform leading up to the slide, while my son was playing the Let’s See How Many Woodchips I Can Stuff In My Mouth at Once game. I realized that I just could not keep up with both of them at the same time.

So I assembled the Kangaroo Climber, and the kids played happily all summer long in our own front yard. I’ll admit, for the first week or so I was hovering around the Climber, helping to hoist them onto the platform and making sure they didn’t step over the edge and fall flat on their faces. But I quickly realized that I needed to let them figure it out for themselves (both the climbing and, yes, the falling), so they’d know how a climbing structure worked. Only then would we be able to return to the playground.

t climber

I won’t lie. The learning process was a bit rough. My kids are on the small side and had a difficult time getting onto the platform. There was a fair amount of grunting, screaming, whining, and crying, but they both eventually found their own strategies and were so proud that they could do it without help. The falling was, of course, much harder to watch. But, thankfully, the learning curve was steep. And it wasn’t long before they taught themselves how to sit down on their bottoms, slip off that platform, and land on their feet. Like Olympic gymnasts sticking a difficult landing!

r climbing small

both climber

Four months later, I was finally ready to head back to the playground. My kids were a little older, a little taller, and much more skilled than they’d been in the spring. I had the utmost confidence in them, knowing how independent they’d become. And even though the drops were higher and the slide was longer and steeper, I did my best to let my kiddos do as much as they could on their own. My daughter flew down the big slide and jumped right up when she reached the bottom. My son slid himself off a platform roughly two feet high, landed on all fours, and ran around to climb the steps and do it all again.

While I was quite proud, I could see the horrified looks from the other moms. How could I stand by and just watch these potentially dangerous situations? The answer was simple. I know that I cannot always be there for both of them. The best I can do is to help them grow and learn to be self-sufficient. Of course, I would never stand by and just watch them do something seriously dangerous. But feel that taking small risks, whether they fail or succeed, is a healthy part of growing up and will teach them confidence and self-sufficiency. And what parent doesn’t want that?

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11 thoughts on “Small Risks”

  1. It’s so hard to see my daughters in situations where they might fall, get hurt, etc, but, like you I’ve learned I can’t always be there for all of them at the exact same moment. I’ll do what I need to in order to keep them safe, but they have to learn things along they way, too. Having said that, I’ll admit I’m still learning. At a recent parent-teacher conference one of my daughters picked up a pair of scissors. I freaked out and the preschool teacher said “You know, they do use scissors in school and they’re going to have to use scissors throughout life.” OK, clearly I need to back off a bit : )
    .-= Quadmama´s last blog ..Private Parts =-.

  2. My family members want to stop my oldest son from doing anything that might hurt/make them upset. At 3yo, he is getting better at hugging without pulling them down, but it’s still a little shaky. I had to explain that I can’t always be there to save them, and that I only intervene if he is being deliberately mean or doing something that will cause serious harm. Bruises aren’t going to kill them.
    .-= Melanie´s last blog ..One more week… =-.

  3. This is exactly where we’re at right now with our almost 16 mo old girls! In the last couple months they’ve started climbing….and recently it’s been A LOT. The other day one girl was climbing up the drawer pulls in the kitchen while the other was in the living room jumping on the couch [I had not seen her climb up] totally ignorant that there is a drop off. There have been A LOT of falls from every angle. We try to minimize the major dangers, like a sharp corner of a table, etc. But, there is only so much we can do. We can’t raise them in a padded room or they would never learn. It’s turned into some great lessons in discipline/respecting our property [we don’t climb up the drawers or jump on the couch] and learning things like sitting on the couch vs. standing and jumping and walking off the edge [which has happened repeatedly even though they have both fallen off and hurt themselves]. It’s definitely a whole new ball game, especially at the park. In a way, I’m thankful that it’s now the rainy season and we need to find indoor play areas that seem less risky until we can get outdoors again and maybe by then they will have more of a handle on getting around! Great post!

  4. I couldn’t agree more, 15-ish months was a really really hard time to take the kids to the playground. Able to walk and climb, but not super well, and absolutely zero sense of gravity or danger.

    I’m also right there with you on letting my kids take a certain amount of risk, arguably more than other moms or other folks on the playground would. But I typically feel pretty confident in assessing their abilities, so I usually let them go for it. And hey, even if they are “good” at something, there’s always a chance they will fall or get hurt. Such is life. Might as well let them give it a try if they can.

  5. My girls are 2, but are more the size of a 15 month old, so I see those horrified looks all the time. I too reached the conclusion that I have to let the girls take a few more risks than a singleton because I can’t be in 2 places at once. I am proud to say that when they fall down, they are most likely to jump up and say, “I’m okay” than to break down crying. A singleton mom calls it good natured.

  6. About that same age, I had a revelation. With two active boys, we WILL at some point end up in the Emergency Room. My job is try and minimize the magnitude of the injury. In other words, injury is inevitable — my job is to keep everyone alive. So far so good!

  7. Oh, I agree with the indoor play places to safely let them learn. They can still fall and hurt themselves, but it mostly heavily padded and contained.Gymboree or MyGym are the two places around here to go to.

  8. We’ve been taking the kids to the neighborhood park solo since they could walk. OOPS! I won’t lie that I don’t hold my breath as either kid charges across the jumpy bridge thing (that has no significant rails), or toss themselves down the Big Slides head first. I can’t always be there to spot, and we’ve definitely had bumps from slipping on the stairs and hitting the handle. But I can’t bear to keep them inside our home all day every day, either. They’ve learned the ‘hard’ way, I guess, but I think they’re more coordinated (so people have mentioned. personally, I think they’re pretty clumsy) than their counterparts. Which makes me think I need to take the video camera on of these park trips.

    We were at a well-visit on Monday at the pediatrician and there’s a small table and chairs that are better suited for the 2-5 year old lot. We were given horrified looks when we let the kids climb up and sit on the chairs on their own. On one particular on-off-on-off-on-off the chair by my son, he didn’t quite get his foot under him and fell off the chair onto his hands and knees. there was a collective, startled “AH!” by the other 20 people in the room. And in the moment of silence that followed I was all “he’s fine”, barely moving from my chair. And he WAS fine, didn’t even blink before moving on to the next thing. But, oh, the looks I got for letting my child learn by doing!
    .-= Rachel´s last blog ..I’m Moving And Changing My Name =-.

  9. That 15-18 month period is crazy. Mine are 19 months now and I can stand back a bit and let them do their thing without having to worry that they will suicide dive off the edge of something all the time, but they were all over the place a few months ago. They learned a lot in that little time. I watched a woman with a 15 month old at the park the other day and realized how different it was now that they were a little bit bigger.

  10. Same here! Mine are turning 1 today, but I have followed this policy since they started crawling, and (very) soon after, standing. They fell on their backs SEVERAL times a day for a week or two when they were 6-7 months old, but soon learned not to let go of whatever it was they were holding on to. There was no way I could avoid it without affecting their learning and development (and making them even more scared of the falls). To be honest, that was the only time so far they needed this type of “learning”. They are now almost walking, they walk a lot by the hand and I don’t know if they will fall when they start soloing, but they are usually cool about it.

    I am not at all neurotic about this kind of stuff. For instance, when Isabel started crying after bumping her head on the shower glass just because she was scared (she was dfinitely not hurt), I bumped my head a few times, made a funny “POW” noise, laughed, and now they find it super funny to bump their heads on to walls, lol. Of course, when the accidents are harder and there is real pain, they cry just like I would, hehehe. Same for light falls on their butts, sudden loud noises (birthday balloons exploding), etc.
    .-= Julia´s last blog ..Wordless Wednesday =-.

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