NOTE: The following excerpt is from a short series of blog articles I wrote on parenting and early childhood education in 2013.
I am not an over-protective parent. I believe that pain, in small doses, is valuable to the learning experience. Bumps, bruises, and scrapes are part of childhood; they are our earliest merit badges. Pain teaches us to recognize danger, and to be gentle with other people. So I've always allowed my son to play without hovering over him or guarding him too closely, with one notable exception: the jungle gym.
You see, my son is a daredevil. Ever since he could walk, he has shunned the baby jungle gym in favor of the larger equipment designed for children age five and older. What was disconcerting for me as a new parent was that the larger jungle gym has an open platform nearly seven feet high. And at 18 months old, my son had little regard for heights, or for danger in general. Needless to say, every time he got anywhere near the edge, I would feel nervous.
At the beginning I climbed the jungle gym with him, putting myself between him and the edge of the platform. As he grew older, I let him climb on his own, but I still followed along the ground, making sure I always got to the edge of that platform before he did. And I would stand there like a sentinel ready to catch him should he fall and remind him, stay away from the edge.
My son is three and half years old now. A few weeks ago, we took advantage of an unseasonably warm winter day and visited the playground. He headed straight for the big jungle gym, as usual. But this time, I just watched him climb, with confidence. And I stood back much too far away to intervene as he reached that platform, then went safely beyond it. I wasn't nervous; I wasn't concerned. I didn't plan or prepare myself for it; I just...trusted. I trusted my son to respect his surroundings, and I trusted in my ability to teach him.
He's learned his lesson well. So have I.
TJ Barranger is a branding and publicity consultant in the Baltimore, Maryland area with a background in business communications and online content management. He specializes in assisting small business and non-profit clients. Agree/disagree with this article? Share your comments via e-mail: TJ@TJBCreative.com.