Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Why I Need to Embrace Toddler Fearlessness

[Alternative title: Wise Words from My Dad]

Do any of you toddler parents out there ever feel like slamming your head on the table out of frustration that your kid continues to do something that already caused them injury? Lately, I've found myself wondering, Why are you doing that again? Why are you not learning your lesson? That is dangerous! "Dangerous" is a word that Presley hears more than a handful of times every week.

"Please do not run with that in your hand. That is dangerous."
"Pres, please do not climb on the table. You might get hurt. That is dangerous."
"Please step away from the oven. It's hot and could cause an 'ouch.' Dangerous."
"Presley, dangerous. We do not want you to pull on that. We want you to be safe."

It's exhausting. Over the holidays, she fell backward while standing on a chair and hit her head pretty hard on the floor. She also fell off the couch and busted her lip. This past week she was sitting on top of the two-tier cat perch, and all I could do was look at my husband and say, "I can't watch her do that. She's making me too nervous." Her new favorite thing is climbing over things head-first: her miniature couch, piles of pillows, off the bed.

I was talking with my parents this weekend on FaceTime. Pres donned her favorite pink skirt over her pajamas and was running laps around the family room as her screams and laughs echoed through the house. Unable to ignore the background noise and flashes of pink that kept sweeping through the room, my dad said, "She has so much energy!" He thought back to our visit to San Diego last month and added, "When we were at the zoo, she could have played for hours. Up and down, and up and down!"

I gave them a bug-eyed look and said, "It's exhausting, because she has no fear. She can fall off a chair, bang her head, sob uncontrollably for ten minutes, and then she's back up on the chair two minutes after that. It's maddening! I don't want her to be that fearless. Sometimes, a little bit of fear can be good, because it helps us create boundaries." Right?

My wise dad said, "But do you know what that is? The thing that makes her so fearless? Confidence -- that you probably passed on to her. Think about it. When she puts her mind to something, she will do it until she succeeds. She's not afraid that she fell once. She knows deep down that she can do it, so she'll try it again." This, guys. This. [Editor's Note: I will venture to say that my husband is a more confident, sure-footed individual than me, but yes, she is a product of us both.]

I was completely humbled as a parent, because he gave me a completely different perspective on how toddlers operate and learn. I was so concerned that she couldn't get it through her thick skull that being too adventurous might injure her, and then in swoops my dad who reminded me that she is in constant exploration of her world and fueled by confidence. While I can't help being cautious, he has reminded me to reshape my thinking and wrap my head around what her world looks and feels like and to celebrate her adventurous side instead of always wanting her to play it safe, stay in line, and make parenting easier for us. By embracing her fearlessness now, I can help build her confidence... forever. (Wow, this parenting thing can feel heavy, sometimes!)

So cheers to my dad! He is proof that being goofy, cautious, and wise are not mutually exclusive.
Thanks for everything you taught and continue to teach me, Dad!
Happy birthday!

1 comment:

Marie @ Life is a Highway said...

Great read, Lindsay! It's a wonderful thing when a parent helps you see things in a different light. A whole new perspective. That moment when you say "Oh, yeah."