Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Letting the Fallen Child (on Crutches) Get Up Alone: A Lesson In Discipline

Scenario: We are a group of women --mostly mothers -- talking around a table when a child (I'll call the kid "Jim") falls. All kids fall, but this accident seems to be a big deal, because "Jim," about eight years old, always walks with crutches.

Of course, when Jim falls, I immediately stir to jump to my feet. Poor thing, I think. Likewise, the woman next to me is ready to pounce. And then I see Jim's mother, she has not moved. While the rest of us begin to shuffle to our feet, Jim's mother just sits: patiently and calmly.

The rest of us are stunned by Jim's mother's reaction and we just watch her sit. We take our cues from her and watch as Jim --with crutches attached to both arms -- pushes to find a balance.

I'm near tears. But Jim stands up with a smile and the mother smiles back at the child. The other eager-to-help mom next to me catches my eye and we nod at each other like two bobble head toys.

We get it: Through self-discipline, Jim's mother has taught her child a lesson that applies to money, school, hearts and deeds. It's okay to fall as long as we try to get up. And sometimes, children learn to recover from small tumbles by getting up on their own.

In hindsight, I realize how embarrassed Jim would have felt if a table of able-bodied, well-meaning moms had rushed to the rescue. Our so-called kindness would have shamed the child and stolen a triumphant.

Under our breaths, the other anxious-to-help mom and I trade comments of wonder about the self-discipline displayed by Jim's mom. If we felt anxious and disturbed by the fall, Jim's mother must have felt alarmed. But she smiled, watched and waited.

That scene took place just days ago and has made me think about my own actions as a mother and a person. Here are the questions, I've been asking myself:

1) Am I too quick to rush in with solutions to homework problems, lost money, disappointments and falls? Do I try to be a "Catcher in the Rye?" Have I become a human-shield?

2) Do my children know how to recover from public and private falls? Am I teaching the right lessons?

3) Do I have the patience to watch my children find their balance or am I a crutch?

As a person, I've learned:

1) It's okay to fall.

2) It's okay to fall in public with a room of people watching.

3) We all have crutches --some are physical; some are emotional; some are visible and some are not.

4) Find the humor and the lesson in every fall. It's there on the floor.

5) Believe you can get up.

And finally, I am grateful to have witnessed such a scene. Quite frankly, I've had devastating emotional and financial falls as a young woman. But Jim's recovery has given me hope and humor. What's more, I'm grateful to myself for paying attention.

Through close attention I noticed that Jim's mom was as still as a rock and then, I became a rock like Jim's mom.


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1 comment:

pam munro said...

I think the best lesson a parent can teach a child is (gradually) how to COPE with life. The child was on crutches, so that was an everyday part of coping - not an unusual incident. We have to help our children to become STRONG. WE can do that by standing back when they need to learn their own lessons - and giving them the proper instruction and help when that adds to their degree of coping! I am grateful for all the frugal skills my mother passed on down to me - it certainly helped my coping over the years!