Kids And Accidents, A Part Of Life
My two-year-old son, Benjamin, makes his way through life with an astounding assortment of bumps, bruises and other contusions. There's the lump on his forehead from leaping off the coffee table, imitating Buzz Lightyear's "To infinity and beyond!" There's the black-and-blue marks on his shins from his errant attempts to play soccer in the house. There's the swollen lip from a full-body slam onto our hardwood floor. And that's just from this weekend.
He's not a clumsy child - far from it. He's well coordinated for his age and size, and he has enough body sense to throw a football in an almost-perfect spiral from his bed to his closet door (not that this is an approved activity). No, his physical scrapes aren't from Three Stooges stumbles and bumbles; instead they're the result of the puppy-like exuberance that infuses everything he does.
My son doesn't wake up in the morning and pull himself sleepily out of bed to greet the day. He roars into the day, laughing and shouting and bouncing on king-sized mattress to raise his still-slumbering parents. When we do finally respond to his pleas to "gup" ("get up" in toddlerese), he squeals with delight at effecting action on his behalf. He's equally thrilled if I meet his request for his favorite breakfast - peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. And if I follow it up with orange slices, he's so thrilled that he dances and twirls around the room, usually upsetting a chair or himself in the process.
He approaches his entire life in the same whole-hearted manner. He loves or hates, adores or despises, embraces or rejects. There's no part way about anything he does, no lukewarm, no maybes. He lives his life with passion, whether that energy is directed at an ice cream cone or his favorite Thomas the Tank book, or invested in trying to keep me from brushing his teeth and washing his face.
But this passion has its side effects. When you invest yourself so fully, it's impossible to escape without a few bumps. Just as elite athletes are sure to take some spills on the playing field because of their dedication to their sport, anyone who chooses a life of the highest highs and lowest lows will also face their share of skinned knees and bumped shins - physical and emotional. When you're living life on the edge, it's inevitable that you're going to miss the mark every once in a while, slip and fall, and have the scars to prove it.
The thing that really amazes me about Benjamin, though, is how he takes it all in stride. Even the worst of his mishaps never slows him down for more than an afternoon. After one of his tumbles, he might shed some tears and have a cuddle break with Mommy, but then he's right back at the jungle gym or the coffee table again. The setback is never so bad that an Elmo band-aid and a Popsicle can't recharge his batteries. Falling down to him is just a part of life, something that happens when you're busy living and learning.
Adults spend so much energy trying to re-experience the wide-eyed excitement of our youth. There's a whole industry of consultants, magazines, books and lecture series intent on teaching us to recapture our joy - for a price. They try to get us to slow down, to simplify, to live in the moment. But the real problem isn't that we've lost our joy; it's that we've lost our ability - or our willingness - to fall down. We see slipping up as unforgivable, making mistakes as something that happens to other, lesser people. We stick with the familiar so we don't risk failure or embarrassment. But by limiting our experiences to only a narrow "safe" category, we limit our joy as well.
I recently saw a statistic that children laugh every 10 seconds or so. I would bet that my son falls down or makes a mistake or otherwise colors outside the lines nearly that often. Is it so outlandish to think that maybe the two are connected?