“Mommy, you don’t love me,” he said to me with big, fat tears in his eyes.
I put down whatever it is I was doing to turn and engage him fully. “Why on earth would you say that?” I asked him.
“After I fell down, you didn’t tell me to ‘be careful.’”
And he was serious.
My knee-jerk reaction of telling him to ‘be careful’ in response to his various pains had become a Band-Aid for him, soothing him and encouraging him all in one.
Perhaps I should have tried a different tactic. When I was a new mother of just one, toddling cherubic little boy, one of the moms in my peer group had several kids. When her son, the same age as my son, fell down and started to choke up, she had a much different response; “shake it off!” she told him.
At the time I nearly fainted from her words; now I see the wisdom in them. But I’ll still continue to tell my kids to ‘be careful’ after they hurt themselves, to say ‘don’t do that’ when they do something foolish or sometimes ‘that’s not something you get to cry about’ when they inadvertently hurt someone else.
My main goal as a parent is to teach my kids to stand on their own two feet while also offering them a soft place to fall when they really need it. I think kids need to feel pain, disappointment and anger and I don’t want to protect them from these very real parts of life.
But I’ll still keep telling them to ‘be careful.’