As many, including Nonviolent Communication’s creator Marshall Rosenberg, have said: “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly.”
Yesterday I brought my daughter a surprise: her first scooter. She’s been excited about them since she first saw them in use at the local park a few weeks ago. She was so proud (and to her credit, immediately noted that she now needs a helmet, specifically a green one). We took it outside right away so she could give it a spin.
Let me begin by saying that apparently the finer mechanical points of scootering are more complicated than they might seem on the surface. My daughter’s first, best effort involved grasping the sides of the handlebars, straddling her feet on either side of the board, and pushing it along as she walks. And even so, she was thrilled. Up and down the sidewalk, walking with her new toy.
Until she fell. Kind of hard, actually. (She could have just let go, because, as I mentioned earlier, she wasn’t really riding the scooter. But she didn’t.).
I was right there. I scooped her into my lap and told her what happened.
“You fell down. The ground was bumpy and the scooter stuck and you fell with the scooter on top of you. That was scary and it hurt. I’m right here. I’ll hold you until you feel better.”
I could feel her shock and hurt. But I could also feel something else: the urge to make it all okay. To tell her, “Get back up there, baby. You won’t fall again. I promise.”
But that wasn’t the truth. In reality, she is probably going to fall again.
More accurately, she is definitely going to fall again. If not today, then tomorrow. And it won’t do her any good to tell her otherwise.
To be sure, I don’t want her to be so afraid of falling that she never gets on (or, rather, next to) that scooter again. But equally, I don’t want her to feel utterly betrayed, confused, and helpless when, inevitably, she does fall again.
So, when she stopped crying and started to get up, I spoke the truth. “If you want to try it again, you can. You might fall, and I’ll be here to help you get back up again.”
I won’t always be there when she falls, but right now, sometimes, I can be.
And hopefully, she will learn from me not that she will never fall, but rather that she will definitely fall, and after she does, eventually, she will be okay once again.
For additional reading:
- The Two Arms of Relating
- Thanks, but no thanks: Dealing with unsolicited parenting advice graciously and nondefensively
- That time I accidentally locked my kid in the car
Rebekka Helford is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Los Angeles, California. With over a decade of experience working with parents and young children, Rebekka specializes in short-term intensive parenting consultation, using a variety of tools including home, office, and school visits to help families navigate developmental hiccups and get back on track. Virtual visits now available!
Click here to schedule an appointment or contact Rebekka with a question – who knows, she might even answer it in her next post!