Just the other day, Isaac was standing on the bed, one hand holding up some brightly coloured toy he was gnawing on, the other hand grasping the bedrail, swaying somewhat precariously, when he decided that the inability to stand on his own should not prevent him from lifting the hand on the bedrail to better stuff his toy into his mouth, which led, immediately, to a swift fall with his face smacking against the bedrail.
And then, he sat there for a dazed second, before recovering in a snap, and pulling himself up again, just with the one free hand, because of course, one must never let go of a toy.
I was incredibly, incredibly proud.
The first time Isaac took a tumble — some minor bump of his head from a sitting position — we reacted like typical first-time parents with anxious arms reaching for him and (probably) utterly horrified expressions on our faces. And Isaac in return, went from simply being confused (he did fall from a sitting to a prone position, afterall), to bawling his eyes out after he saw us. Because if mummy and daddy look like they think I have just gone from baby Einstein to becoming a potential future serial killer (head injuries are one of the three traits of serial killers, but it is too macabre for me to share the other two), then surely it’s something worth me crying over right?
Only it usually turns out that babies fall over and bump their heads all their time, and while it’s good to be careful and check for serious bruises and injuries, they are mostly none the worse for wear. In fact, we realised that except in cases where the fall is genuinely painful and evidenced by a bruise, Isaac’s reactions were mostly based on cues he gleaned from us. If we exclaimed in horror, he would cry. If we remained calm and comforting, he too would keep calm and carry on.
So we began to make it a point to remain calm. After a tumble, we would say to him “Oh, you fell down! That’s ok, babies fall down!” Or sometimes we say nothing because he is so unfazed that there isn’t even time for us to say anything before he continues with whatever he was doing last.
And we became so into this falling business that we progressed to “falling drills” with Isaac — we would stand him up, release him, and let him fall. Um, not because we are twisted parents who enjoy watching our baby tumble, but because without ever falling, how would he learn to keep his balance? And more than that, we wanted him to learn how to fall safe, that is, on his bum instead of face-planting. So we put him on a soft surface, cushion up all the hard edges, let go and just let him fall.
Which really is the most we can do as parents for our children isn’t it? We do our best to make the world cotton-candy safe, but it just won’t be. So the next best thing is to teach them to fall safe, to fall right, so they can get up again.
Isaac always gets up, quickly, matter-of-factly, and without a fuss.
And I think, all children learn to sit someday. They learn to stand, they learn to walk. It’s not how quickly they achieve these milestones that makes me proud.
It’s all the tumbles in between, all the falls and scrapes and bruises, and how at the end of it all, a child can remain unafraid to try again. That is how I want to raise my child, that is what makes me proud.