Physical limits

I posted on Facebook a video of Shobe climbing up the door frame of our bathroom. I immediately got flak from my mother and aunts that she might fall and rip her body parts or break her bones.
True. But what no one else but me saw and heard was that… right before Shobe climbed the door frame, she was climbing the thin poles of our staircase. She was almost to the top when I saw her, and before I could even comment, she remarked, “Sa banyo na lang, mas madali (I’ll go to the bathroom, it’s easier).”
She clambered down the pole, ran to the bathroom door, and screamed at me, “Nanay! Take my video!” As instructed, I videoed her Spiderman-ing it to the top.
Yes, she has climbed the door frame before. Yes, she climbs up a lot of things: countertops, shelves, ladders, playground poles.
Half of me is afraid that she’d break her skull. The other half of me forces myself to stay put and trust that she knows her body better than I do.
When the girls were toddlers, I learned that stating “be careful” while they are playing or exploring their surroundings actually distracts them and removes their attention from what they are doing.
Instead of keeping their focus on going up the steps of the slide, they look at and mind the parent, creating that risk of slipping off the step. Instead, I learned early on to do all my reminders before they girls do anything, and then let them do their thing.
When they were toddlers, I ensured that they played in safe environments and mostly let them do their things. It was very difficult to not automatically shout “be careful” when they’re running around or going on the slides and swings, but I learned to do it. I would give them reminders before they went off to play, and told them that I would stand where I was. They would constantly look at me, come back to me and then go off again to play. I think this fostered more independence and managed their risk-taking behavior better.
They would always call me or their Tatay when they wanted to do a fireman on a pole (slide down a pole). Achi is more scared so our hands had to hover behind her as she slid down. All Shobe needed was for us to be there to catch her in case something happened.
Shobe really is more of a risk taker. I think, though, she really does not know the risks that she is taking. When she was three, I saw her carry an empty round water container (for the water dispenser), place it in front of a shelf, and use it as a stepstool. My heart fell out of my body just then. She did not see me; I controlled my urge to scream, stood right behind her, ready to catch her if she fell. She didn’t.
We had quite a long talk about it and I bought a Monobloc chair for her to use as a stepstool instead. The plastic chair was light enough for her to carry, and quite stable for her to step on. Since I got the chair, she stopped using all sorts of items as stepstools. (She had also used a stack of books before).
This is my point. All parents are afraid for their children to get hurt. Many of my peers end up not letting their children do much. For example, I once saw a yaya carry a three-year-old down five steps. I’m sure this child knows how to get down those steps; but in our culture of fear, she wouldn’t even let the child do it. (It might also be because if something happens to her charge, yaya is liable).
How do we balance our fears with letting our children do things?
Like many parenting things, everything has to be done in advance. For eight-year-old Shobe, it really is about reminding her to be more careful about the things she does. At school, she runs everywhere, jumps on the bleacher steps, and comes home with a new bruise every week.
I constantly remind Shobe about the safe places to run. She knows not to run near the top of the school’s bleacher steps on the second floor because she really does not want to fall all the way to the ground floor. She knows that she can only jump on the steps when she’s nearer to the ground floor and when there are no bags lying around. (Knowing these things and actually doing them is totally different. I’m sure she breaks these rules all the time. Thankfully, we have not had major accidents yet. Maybe if I nag often enough, we will not get any.)
She also asked for, and got, a skateboard for her birthday last year. She used it only for straight runs for a couple of months and then stopped. She’s afraid to continue on because she doesn’t know how to turn. I’m currently looking for someone to teach her because she doesn’t want to learn from YouTube.
At the end of the day, I trust in her. I trust that she knows her body and her body’s limits. She knows what she can try by herself and what she needs help with. She knows that her parents will always support what she wants to do, and find a way to help her do things.
Our next step? Might as well use her climbing prowess and bring her wall-climbing.