When my son, Wolfy was learning to walk, he would fall and then cry pitifully, reaching his arms out to be helped up.
“Don’t go to him,” people said, “Don’t pick him up when he acts like that. He needs to learn.”
He needs to learn what? That his mama won’t come to him when he’s hurting? That when he’s feeling uncertain and trying something new, he’s all on his own? Nope. No thank you. Those weren’t lessons that I was trying to teach.
Instead I wanted my son to know that I am here for him, no matter what. That I’m not perfect but that I always try to do my best. So over and over again, I reached back and grabbed those little arms. I hugged the little person that changed from a squishy baby to a stout toddler and then the lean body of a young boy. I’ve kissed countless boo boos – both real and imagined.
There is a sweetness to being so needed by my little boy but there’s a downside.
Sometimes I get frustrated. Wolfy cries frequently over seemingly insignificant things. He can be whiny at times. And now that he’s five years old, he’s reluctant to ride his bike and jump off the side of the pool. I began to question whether always comforting him was the best thing. Maybe I wasnt doing my son any favors. Maybe all the attention was turning him soft.
Then I thought about my second child, my daughter Ada. She is a fearless, rough-and-tumble girl. At 2yo she’s already obsessed with super heroes and playing dinosaurs. The other day she fell off the chest-high stone wall at our house and popped right back up complaining that she had bitten her tongue. It was bleeding but my little girl shed no tears. Ada came into the world like this. I didn’t teach her to be tough or fearless. She just is.
And that made me realize that my other child…just isn’t. His nature is soft and sensitive. He gets easily hurt and that’s okay.
Recently Wolfy has become obsessed with the Magic School Bus television show. The other day at the breakfast he randomly told me, “Arnold is my favorite character because he’s so brave.”
“What makes Arnold brave?” I asked.
“He’s always scared to do something but then he does it anyway.”
I told my son, you’re brave like that too. Being brave doesn’t mean being fearless. It means conquering your fears.
I know that in Wolfy’s life, many things will scare him. But that is just more opportunities for him to be brave. And my job is to support him. And kiss his boo-boos sometimes too.