Her teacher walked her out of school looking slight distraught, while Brenna sported a spot on her face that was bumped and scratched.
“She fell today,” her teacher explained apologetically. “We feel so terrible about it. I don’t even know what happened; she was running around, and then she was on the ground, crying and bleeding.” And that night, she messaged me again to check up on Brenna, saying the fall scared her.
But I told Brenna’s teacher, “When she falls, I think of it like this: she is taking risks, trying new things, getting stronger. She didn’t move for the longest time, didn’t walk until she was 2, didn’t crawl until she was two-and-a-half. Movement has been so slow for her…
“When she falls, it is hard to see her hurt in that second, but it feels victorious to me that she is being brave enough to do things that come with the risk of falling.”
You have a much better chance of falling when you’re on the edge, high up, moving fast – in other words, when you’re taking risks. I’m not sure there are many who learned how to take off, soaring, without a trip, a stumble, maybe even a fall, first. Our falls can only define us when we measure them through the scope of failure – and failure is only failure when we refuse to gain from it.
I’m convinced that in every piece of our life – even the most difficult, the most embarrassing, the most declining – we can still reflect upon, learn from, adapt within and grow because of. The victory is much more triumphant when we have tasted the struggle, the disappointments…when we understand wholly the risks because we have succumbed to them, and then overcome them.
If we never take risks or push our perceived limitations, how can we know how electrifying it feels to stand back up and continue after a trip or tumble, to push up and improve and learn and create again?
Risks looks different for each of us, and overcoming looks drastically different for each of us, too.
But the fact is that we will never know what is our fastest, our highest, our best, our fullest, our biggest…until we try. And yet, we can also never know what we are capable of until we fall and rise once more.
My oldest was struggling a bit with swim lessons over the summer, and it became a battle of mind over matter.
He wanted to swim across the deep end, but first had to conquer jumping from the side of the shallow end and swimming to the pool’s entry steps without stopping to stand up. Several lessons went by where he fought against this. And after each lesson, he expressed his frustration about just wanting to go straight to the deep end. He wanted the full pool at his disposal without needing to work for it – the success of swimming without learning how to first breathe through the strokes.
“It’s too hard,” he would complain, and I finally told him that not everything will come easy to him, but that will make it even more exciting when he masters it, because he worked so hard to achieve it. Finally – after all of the gulping and sputtering week after week piled on opportunities to try yet again – the day came when that perseverance took hold, all of those “falls” transformed into the new skill of swimming laps across the deep end.
You know, our kids can do difficult things, big things. However, we need to be willing to let them. Maybe even push them a little. Empower them.
I find myself almost automatically delivering a repetitive cautionary reminder whenever one of my kids is going a little too fast, climbing a little too high. “Careful! You might fall.”
“I won’t fall!” they say confidently. And you know what? Most of the time they don’t. And in the rare instance when they do, it was worth the risk, because they’re learning what it means to have the courage to try again.
This article originally appeared at courtneywestlake.com