Why I Will Let My Daughter Pick Herself Up

by Kara Lawler
Originally Published: 
daughter playing
evgenyatamanenko / iStock

I have a son, and when he was little and fell, people would say to him, “Jump up! Brush it off,” and to me, “Don’t baby him.” But I notice a distinct difference in people’s reaction to my daughter falling. Now, no one says that to me. Instead, they are shocked when I don’t make a beeline to pick her up. Everyone runs for her and wants to coddle her.

My daughter was an early walker and she walked at 9 months. She’s fairly agile, and she actually scaled a small rock wall yesterday at the park. She’s quick on her feet and is already running. As such, she falls. She falls a lot. And while I do my best to help her avoid dangerous situations (like climbing on a chair or on the steps), she falls despite my best efforts. She trips over her brother’s truck. She trips over her own feet. She falls because she is moving way too fast.

And while I am always close behind her, I am careful not to pick her up all the time. Of course, if she is hurt or if she seems especially distraught, I pick her up, but I don’t go running every single time. And if I can tell she isn’t hurt, I simply say to her, “You’re OK. Jump up!” And she does. She jumps up and keeps on moving. She might have a bruise or a scrape, but if I don’t make a big deal of it, she generally doesn’t either. But, I can’t help but notice how people react to this.

We were at a block party recently, and someone said to me, “You’re making me nervous!” because I didn’t stop her every fall.

We were in our small front yard last night and our well-meaning neighbor kept grabbing her before she landed in the grass.

We were at my parents’ house and they yelled, “Kara, grab her!” as she tripped over a toy in the living room.

We were at the park, and a complete stranger grabbed her as she started to go down a very small incline to the sand pit.

We were at a birthday party and she tripped over the door jam and a fellow party goer immediately grabbed her.

We were in a friend’s yard and someone said, “Oh, she’s going to get grass stains on her leggings.”

These are just examples from the past two days.

But, I will let her pick herself up, and while I realize she’s still little and likely not aware of most of the things below, over time, I want her to learn these things:

1. She’s just as brave as her brother.

I grew up with an older brother and everyone always put him in the role of protector. While I have been forever grateful to have him as an older brother, I want my daughter to know that she’s just as strong as her brother. She may be little, but she is brave and can be courageous, all on her own.

2. Sometimes, life isn’t fair.

As much as I’d love to believe that my daughter will never be hurt—either physically or emotionally—it breaks my heart to know that just isn’t true. And it’s my job to teach her that while life isn’t fair, resiliency is key. She will fall, but as long as she gets back up, she will be unstoppable.

3. I’m here to help her now, but I won’t always be right with her.

I can hardly think about her going off without me, but inevitably, she will. Soon, she’ll be in preschool, and in the blink of an eye, she’ll head off to another place for college. While I want her to feel safe and protected now, I want her to learn how to be without me (in small, baby steps). Even at 1, she’s learning how to be independent.

4. Falling and failing really help us to savor our successes.

Falling and failing are a part of life, and in the end, they really help us to learn how to value our success. She will fall from time to time, but she truly will rise and her failures will help her to savor her successes.

5. It’s totally OK to cry, but she doesn’t need to cry every time something doesn’t go her way.

Listen, my daughter comes from a long line of emotional women (and men!), and I absolutely believe in the power of a good cry. But I want her to realize that a minor setback doesn’t always deserve her emotional attention.

6. She isn’t defined by what she looks like.

Behind most of the comments about my daughter falling outside was the idea that she should stay clean. Dirt and grass stains were to be avoided. For most of my life, I’ve struggled with body image and I’m doing my best to make sure my daughter understands that she isn’t defined my her looks.

My baby girl is not even 2, and honestly, all I want to do is to run to her and pick her up always. All day long, all I want to do is hold her. But I also need to help her learn how to pick herself back up when she falls—literally and figuratively. I will always go running to her when she truly needs me, but I also want to teach her how to pick herself back up without my help. I’m hoping that by not always running to her when she falls, that I’m slowly but surely showing her that she’s strong and brave. Because even though I can hardly believe it, there will be a day when I’m not with her.

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