I 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!).
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.
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 method 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.
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.
© Copyright Leah DeCesare 2012
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