Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The merry-go-round incident: Letting our kids flex their independence
Max has been wanting to do more things by himself lately. This is amazing. This is also sometimes scary.
We were at a drive-in movie the other night that had a playground with a merry-go-round. Max stood there, watching it and smiling. Then he wanted to help push it. There were more than a dozen little kids on it, and one big kid pushing them, and I asked him to go slow so Max could do it without falling. He obliged.
Suddenly, Max wanted to go on the merry-go-round. Alone. And I was torn. Max has pretty decent balance, but it is not totally there. I knew there was a chance he could fall if I let him go on it.
I didn't have much time to think, though, because Max was trying to clamber on and all the kids were watching and waiting. And so, I lifted him up onto the seat. I pushed him back as far as I could. I wrapped his fingers around a rail and said, "Hold on tight!" Then I stood back and watched, nervously.
Max had a gleeful smile. Then the wheel started whipping around, fast. Max whirled by me, tilted to one side, a startled look on his face.
"STOP!" I yelled. "STOP!" I rushed over to try and grab him, but it was too late. Max fell off.
The new Cars 2 backpack he's been wearing everywhere except the bath saved him. He fell on his back, and it padded his fall.
Max wailed, but he was unharmed. I choked up as I held him. I wasn't just shaken—I felt awful that I'd let it happen. He could have really gotten hurt. After he calmed down, we walked back to the car, then settled in to watch Planes (he looooooved it).
I'll be making more and more decisions like this in the upcoming years. As eager as I am for Max to flex his independence, I'm going to have to step back and give things more thought, as I should have done that evening. When spontaneous activities crop up like the merry-go-round ride, I may have to jump on with him whether he likes it or not—until he's ready to ride alone.
Posted by Ellen Seidman at 6:40 AM