As you progress through life, you find yourself not just making new friends, but new types of friends. When you’re a kid, friending is simple: if the two of you get along, you’re friends. In college you upgrade to roommates, which is basically the same as a friend except they’re around more often. Adding women into the mix complicates matters, because once you get married, it’s time for you to find some couple friends. Finding these is very often a re-hash of the dating game you thought you’d left behind, but with twice as many people. You’ll go on “first dates” with a prospective couple and feel each other out. If the men get along with each other well enough, and the women get along with each other well enough, then maybe there will be a second date. If you reach a third date you’re probably in the clear; you’re not looking for a life partner anymore, so you can pretty much coast. Once you have children, the process repeats anew, but this time you need to find couples with kids around the age of your kids, and line up compatibilities for them as well. It can get tricky.
I say all of that because I observed something while out with a couple+kids friends of ours. The children were climbing up on some couch like they always do. The mothers rushed over to pull them back down, because after all, the children might hurt fall and hurt themselves!
We fathers stood back and simply shrugged, for what turned out to be fairly similar reasons. Allow me to explain:
The world is a dangerous place. For example, it provides many high places from which one can fall and bump one’s head. A parent has two options:
- Hover over the child constantly, shielding them from any missteps they may take, so that they can climb all over the couch blissfully unaware of the danger they are constantly putting themselves in. Don’t ever turn your back, because babies love to use that moment to make a beeline straight for wherever it is you most don’t want them to be.
- Let them fall down, so that they learn to be more careful next time.
This is one of those instances where the more heartless option may be more loving in the long run. You can’t always be there for your child, even when she’s just a baby. Therefore, you cannot guard her fully from even basic dangers like falling down. Therefore, it is much safer and more effective to teach the child to guard herself, and the only way to get that lesson across is the pain of failure. Besides, if she falls while you’re watching, you can provide comfort and make sure no real damage is done. If her mistaken belief that the world is safe causes her to harm herself when you’re not around, then what?
(None of this is to say that I don’t die a little inside when I see my daughter hurt herself and start crying. But being willing to die for your children is an essential part of being a parent.)
The world is a dangerous place, and it does no good teaching our children that their actions cannot have bad consequences. I suspect this is one of those things that fathers are designed to teach their children, and why children without fathers are much more likely to engage in destructive behaviors like promiscuity, drug use, suicide, and voting Democratic.
All of which is to say: let your kid fall down. S/he’ll end up both safer and wiser than if you don’t.
Also, he might turn into Batman: