My Daughter Fell On Her Face Today
How do we raise girls who can get back up?
She’s just learned how to (mostly) sit up by herself, and already my daughter is reaching for things beyond her grasp. Today she reached too far and face-planted.
She face-planted while I was sitting right beside her.
She started shrieking and I picked her up and she was almost immediately comforted. A few minutes later I set her down and she began reaching for that same old shiny thing that precipitated the face-plant in the first place.
In those short minutes, I was comforting her, I was thinking about how easy life is now. But what about tomorrow? My mind started spiraling off into the future and all the falls facing my daughter just a little farther down the road.
How in the world can I help prepare her? How can I teach her the things she doesn’t yet know?
1. She doesn’t yet know the extent of her own limits.
There is so much benefit in reaching for things that are hard. In pushing your limits. But to push them, you really need to know where they are. You need to know what you are capable of so that you can push past it into new territory.
In some ways, I find myself hoping this is something she never learns, but I know she will encounter her limits someday. Probably sooner than I imagine she’ll come smashing hard into that barrier. Then I have to figure out how to explain resilience into her.
I want to teach her to keep reaching beyond herself. Stretching. Growing. Learning. How can I build this into her? How can I model it in my own life?
2. She doesn’t yet understand the value of contentment.
My mom got me a book in high school that labeled me a disappointed perfectionist. I have that personality that periodically needs to evaluate and figure out how to do better — just ask my long-suffering husband. Every couple of months I ask him, what would make you happier in life?
But because of always wanting to tinker with and improve our lives, sometimes I miss out on being content at the moment. In enjoying the sweetness of where I’m sitting and the immense value of what is already within my grasp.
I see it growing in her already — the grasping, the restlessness, the endless scanning of the room to see what might be better than what she already has.
3. She doesn’t yet know how to determine a thing’s value from a distance.
Especially in our shiny-obsessed culture, how do I help my daughter determine whether the particular shiny object she craves is even worth reaching for?
I’ve seen plenty of adults who live as she lives now, reaching for the next shiny thing and casting it aside almost the instant they get their hands on it. New phone, new job, new car, new spouse — always trying to fill a gaping maw that can’t be filled with things that are temporary.
How do you instill the skills to evaluate from a distance when you can’t be sure of a thing’s worth until you feel its’ weight in your hand? How do you teach something you are so very far from mastering yourself?
4. She doesn’t yet factor fear into the equation when determining whether the possible gain is worth risking the possible fall.
She sees it. She wants it. She reaches.
She pulls back. She reaches again. She falls.
She cries. She’s comforted. She reaches again.
There doesn’t seem to be any fear in her decision-making process right now, which is miraculous in its’ own way. But I know the fear is coming.
How do I demonstrate for her that shiny things of real value just outside her reach are worth the effort of attaining? That healthy fear is part of an equation, but it can never be the determining factor? That it takes courage to step onto a shaky foundation before you’re sure it can hold your weight?
Fear and courage, value and risk. Again, how can you teach something you are just scratching the surface of yourself?
5. She doesn’t yet know that you should hold your hands up if you start falling.
She is going to fall, there’s nothing I can do to help that even if I turn into the most helicoptery of all helicopter mothers. So how do I teach her to protect herself when she starts to fall? Or when the foundations get knocked out from under her?
I have fallen hard. Multiple times. I’ve had metaphorical sprains and full-blown from-the-Eiffel-Tower-sized face-plants. How do I go against my own instincts to cover her from head to toe in bubble wrap?
6. And last and most importantly, she doesn’t yet know that once she’s fallen a few times some of the voices will tell her to stop reaching.
How do I teach her how to give herself the time and space to recover and heal, but not to get stuck? How do I show her how to look up with joy each new morning and take a deep breath and choose to live?
How do I help her understand which voices to listen to and which voices to tell to go back to hell?
You can laugh at me, go ahead! I laugh at myself. My daughter is seven-months-old and already I’m thinking about these things.
But I was a woman before I became a mother. And I was a girl before I became a woman.
I had and have a fantastic mother. A strong, courageous, boundary-pushing, limit-smashing, risk-evaluating, fear-slaying warrior of a woman with a built-in valueless-shiny-thing-detector calibrated for miles.
My mother modeled all of the above so incredibly well — and still — I was a girl who suffered abuse and tragedy at an early age that she couldn’t protect me from.
I was a pre-teen who lived through terrible bullying by girls my mother couldn’t stop, girls steeped in a culture too pervasive and toxic for my mother to combat.
And I was a young woman who made terrible mistakes and lived through then conquered addiction, all the while supported by a mother who watched and waited and prayed for me to beat back the darkness.
It just occurred to me that this weekend is Mother’s Day. Is there ever a way adequate enough to thank a good mother? This is the first one I’ll celebrate from this side of the field, and only seven months into the job I don’t even know what to say to my own.
How did you do it? How can I ever express my gratitude? How can I even hope to come close to the magnificent way you fulfilled your role?
I imagine I’ve just entered the long and crowded tunnel of mothers who hope to steer their daughters away from their own bad choices and protect them from the evil of the world around us. Whatever the reasons, I imagine I’ll keep ruminating on what I can do to help my daughter navigate what’s coming. If you have any advice, I’ll take it!