I’m That Parent Who Lets Her Kid Fall Down

I was at this fantastic indoor play area with my daughter a few weeks ago. One that had a ball pit, slides, and lots of things to climb. A 2-year-old’s dream. We’ve been coming to this indoor playground since she was a baby, and every time we’ve come back, there have been more and more things she’s capable of doing. For instance, she was finally able to climb up the steps to get to the slides last summer. Now a year later, she’s able to make it up there effortlessly and race around the maze of plastic see-through walls.

There’s a climbing tower that a lot of the 3- and 4-year-olds like to scale. It has rubber stepping stones where kids place their feet. The last time we were there, my daughter went over to it and put her foot up on the first step, clutching at the rubber grips above her. I decided to stand back and see what she did. I knew it was probably not going to be successful, but the only way for her to learn was to get out there and try it.

I stared at her in amazement as she climbed a few of them, planning her future as a Ninja Warrior in my head, when she suddenly lost her hold and plopped to the rubberized floor. (You know, the kind that’s hard, but the kids seems to bounce off of them?) She hit the ground and let out a wail, so I came over and picked her up. Another mom who’d seen what happened looked at me.

“Probably not something she’s ready for since she seems pretty little.” I could hear the unfinished thought in her head: How dare you let her do this? Why weren’t you there to catch her?

What this other mom got wrong was that my daughter isn’t too little to try things that she isn’t ready for. Sautéing chicken in a hot pan of oil, probably. Sticking her in those clunky toddler rollerskates and shoving her off down the hill, maybe not. But climbing a kid’s tower over a rubber floor?

My daughter’s tears hadn’t started drying before she was wanting to get back up there and try it again. I let go of her and said, “Okay, go for it!” (Cue disapproving mom stare from across the tower.)

She made it higher this time before she slipped and fell off. Because I’m a semi-responsible mom, I was there to catch her this time, and my daughter thought she was the coolest thing ever.

I allow my daughter to fall off things. Sometimes I even stand aside, knowing she will probably fall off something inevitably and still let her do it anyway. It’s so important to me to instill confidence in my daughter, to let her rough and tumble, to fall down, to scrape her knees because it means she’s taking chances. She’s pushing herself to try something, and when she fails, she wants to get back up and do it again.

I struggle with uncertainty every day. Uncertainty that quitting my career as a nurse to become a writer was the best decision. Uncertainty that that last big purchase was a good idea. Insecurity is a part of life, but I can start now in teaching my daughter that it’s alright to take chances.

I want my daughter to fall down. I want her to test her limits and learn from mistakes. I’m not going to put her in a dangerous situation, because that’s ridiculous, but for my sake and hers, I’m also not always going to be hovering above her when she takes risks. If I want her to be confident, then I have to be confident too. She’s exploring and she’s learning about the world around her.

Sometimes that means I just have to get out of the way.

Photo: Getty