Yesterday I took my son for a haircut. He sat beautifully and cooperated and afterwards I asked him what he’d like to do to celebrate and he requested ice cream from a local shop close to where we were.
The day was GRIZZLY.
Gray, freezing and raining, it was the kind of day when all you really want to do is stay in bed or on your couch wrapped in the softest, fluffiest blanket you can find drinking hot cocoa and ignoring the cold that’s burrowing into your bones even inside your house.
When we got to the spot, I unbuckled him and tried to quickly usher him out of the rain, under an overhang surrounding the shops and into the donut/ice cream shop.
My son is 4. He’s at the age when taking on a challenge – any challenge – feels like the literal best idea in the world.
He saw a sidewalk ledge under the overhang and decided he wanted to jump it and clear it with both feet at the same time. He’s also a petite kid and a late walker, jumping is a relatively NEW experience for him and he gets very excited when he gets to do cool physical feats.
I saw what was about to happen from a mile away and I didn’t stop him.
He ran, jumped, MISSED, and face planted palms down on to the cold, wet, HARD ASF sidewalk. He laid there in silence as I walked over to him and asked him if he was okay, helped him stand up, and checked him to make sure he didn’t bust his face open.
He looked down at this pants and his shirt and in a very disappointed little voice said, “Ugghh. I’m all wet. I missed.”
[Enter very significant teaching moment.]
I got him under the overhang, knelt down and told him this.
“Yes. You missed. And it sucks. You are all wet and that’s very uncomfortable. When we get inside, I will help you dry this up, you will have your treat and we will go home and change. But here’s what I want you to know. I know you missed that jump. And it’s OKAY. You tried it. You will never know what you CAN or CANNOT do unless you TRY. There will come a time when you DO make that jump and you will feel so proud. Don’t ever stop taking jumps. It’s worth the wet pants and raw hands.”
He looked at me and took in every word. Then, in his very wise 4-year-old way, said to me. “OKay.” And walked happily into the shop.
We dried up, he enjoyed his ice cream (see pictured) and we went home to the warmth of our house.
That moment has since been forgotten by him, but it stayed with me the whole drive home, the rest of the day and today. It was a moment I realize most parents would’ve handled differently, including myself a few years ago.
Maybe I would’ve said, “That’s why you have to be careful! Don’t go jumping when you don’t think you can make it! That’s not safe! Be careful!” And of course, I would’ve meant well because we as parents ALWAYS DO.
But I think about what that messaging did to me and does to so many as we get older; when the jumps stop being a 4 inch high side walk and they start being opening a business, moving to a new country, or saying yes to a relationship. I think about how that messaging stays with us and creates an overly cautious, insecure, risk-averse adult.
I’ve had to undo this programming MY ENTIRE LIFE.
As a child born with a VERY scary health condition, if my mother could’ve kept me in a bubble forever – she would have. So I grew up with this understanding of my own fragility that made me HYPER aware of risk. Luckily, I don’t listen very well and have since crushed every limitation placed on me for that.
But it’s been WORK. And I’m sure you have remnants of this, too.
It’s why you haven’t started that business, it’s why you haven’t lost the weight, it’s why you haven’t said YES to calling in true love, it’s why you didn’t take that job or that move – because inside you’re a 4 year old kid scared to skin his knee.
So, because your parents didn’t tell you – I’m gonna.
Take the jump. All the jumps. EVERY jump. Even if you miss it 1000 times. Keep taking them. Eventually, you WON’T miss and it’ll be worth all the wet pants and scraped palms.
You’ve got this. I’m rooting for you.
PS. If you’re willing to take a change on a new fitness routine for the new year, I have a group starting January 13th that includes 1:1 coaching time with me.