Boys and Bruises

Boys and Bruises, climbing a palm tree | MothersCircle.netI remember a time when Michael was little and always had a bruise, or two, or three somewhere on his shins, his forehead, his knees. Some of them had hurt, others just seemed to appear. His bruises were badges of his explorations and were part of the process of him learning about his body in space.

A social worker friend once told me that a sign of abuse is a person having bruises in all stages of healing, but that described my non-abused, well-loved little boy and he had made the bruises all on his own. He was 100% rough and tumble boy from his earliest days.

He bumped into tables when he learned to walk and got bruised. He tipped back in a chair at dinner as a toddler and got bruised. He balanced himself to go up the slide backwards and he learned. Experimenting with body mechanics and spacial relations is all part of growing up, and for many boys, it seems they do it with more energy, more gusto and more brute force than girls (though girls get their fair share of bruises, too!).

climbing at Mystic Seaport

Balancing on the bowsprit of a boat on the playground at Mystic Seaport

Kids who are permitted to test their physical limits, to try things out, actually become better at keeping themselves safe.They understand what they are capable of and gradually build body memory. Before even learning any organized sporting skills or athletic finesse, kids need to be comfortable and confident with their bodies’ abilities. Bruises and all, they learn.

My Dad jokes that Michael should go through life with a helmet and bubble wrap, and yet, he really very rarely gets hurt. He takes risks that are appropriate, he pushes himself in snowboarding, skateboarding, lacrosse, tree climbing, but he’s cautious and not being dangerous.

Michael's First Zip Line Design

Last summer, with his engineering mind, he built a zip line between two trees along our driveway (see video above for his first draft design). It was so creative, it really worked and he even designed a jumping through the airmethod to hold the handle while he climbed to the “launching limb.” No bruises. Lot’s of good fun.

As he’s gotten older, I sometimes think the quantity of bruises may be diminished, but then again, maybe not. His shins are bumped up from sailing, his elbows got a little beaten in a bike fall, but his forehead and face are bruise free since he’s been walking for over 10 years. He does that pretty flawlessly, though usually he’s running or bounding and not really walking anyway.

Sure, it’s not easy, especially for Moms, to release our holds, to lengthen the leash. But it is important for our boys (and girls) to venture out and attempt new things, to gauge if that branch will hold him, to figure out how high he can go on the jungle gym, to test how fast he can swoosh on a sled.

They’re going to get hurt and bruised, but if we allow them, at each age, the freedom (we can still keep an eye from a distance) to move and jump and race and climb, they will learn vital lessons in life that will keep them safer as they grow.

boy climbing tree

That’s Michael waving from the top of the tree. This one made my heart race, but he was at the tippy top – and proud!

Boys will get bruises. And scraps and cuts and concussions even.
Still there is value in providing the space and time to let them discover the capabilities of their bodies.

boy skim boarding

Michael skim boarding
an instant before crash landing

sledding jump, snowy day fun, catching air on a sled,

boys climbing trees, camping, tall pine trees, boys getting bruises

lax, lacrosse

Michael geared up for LAX

© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2012

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14 Responses to Boys and Bruises

  1. Danielle says:

    Love it! And the photos are great!

  2. […] and down and dirty scientists. My son has explored critters under stones, built himself a zip line between two trees (it really works after multiple variations and attempts) and even sleuthed out what kind of animal […]

  3. […] twinkled, and at her age of increasing modesty and bodily awareness, she giggled and challenged, “Boys have boobs… and pecks.” I responded, “They have nipples, too, but can’t feed a baby.” The word […]

  4. […] we tritely feel and behave as if we’re indestructible, but as children, our scars teach us about our bodies in space: how high can we climb, when to release on a rope swing, the importance of knee pads. I have two […]

  5. lol! Boys and bruises! My pediatrician has 2 sons a couple of years older than my firstborn. At a well visit he once asked me about some bruises on one of my boys’ legs. I shrugged and said I had no idea. He’s a boy that plays in the fenced in backyard. I don’t keep track of bruises. My pedi smiled and said the moms who don’t know the cause of bruises don’t worry him. It’s the moms who know the details of every single bruise that concern him. :)

  6. […] always call our son Michael “the engineer” because he is incredibly resourceful, creative in mechanical and […]

  7. […] shoes, splintered toes and thorn-filled arms, bike falls and skating spills, last place blues and deep dark bruises, stumbling first steps and bumpy first falls, stumbling first steps in love and bumpy first break […]

  8. […] twinkled, and at her age of increasing modesty and bodily awareness, she giggled and challenged, “Boys have boobs… and pecks.” I responded, “They have nipples, too, but can’t feed a baby.” The word […]

  9. […] is what we do every day when we stroke our daughter’s cheek while snuggling, when we kiss our son’s skinned knees (and elbows, and forehead …) and when we listen to them – and really hear […]

  10. […] event plan than a career path, he wants to climb Mount Everest and glide off the top. (Ugh, see my Boys and Bruises […]

  11. […] As we get outside again, here are three playground tips for parents and here’s one of my favorites on boys and bruises. […]

  12. […] live the smell of my kids; my teen’s bedroom, my youngest’s nighttime breath, my son’s outdoor hair, and I love their freshly bathed, clean, soapy smell. I live the sight of their bursting smiles, my […]

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