In theory, I'm all about letting kids learn by doing. But, in practice it sometimes takes a little more guts to let go and let them learn, all on their very own.
We have a tiny yard, really tiny. My kids love to climb trees. Unfortunately, the two big trees in our yard don't have any low-down branches, so this bush is their go-to climbing spot. Vivi wants to do everything Sam does. She watched him jump off the porch yesterday, clearing all three steps at once and immediately took a flying leap off the porch too! So, clearly, she must be a tree climber too. But do you know how hard it is to watch your sweet little baby work her way up into the uppermost brittle branches of a rather flimsy bush? Heart stopping, I tell you!
But here's the clincher: I know if I help her down and send her off to play somewhere else, that the moment I turn around she'll be back in the bush. And if I don't let her practice, when she does manage to sneak up there, she'll be less experienced and more likely to fall! So, there's this thing I do. I imagine the worst case scenario, those are generally not all that likely. Then I ask myself, "will they die or get permanently damaged in some way?" If the answer is no, I try and take a deep breath and step back. Not always easy. When we had bees I used to let Sam go right up to the hive and peer inside. He's not allergic and a sting won't kill him. So, although it went against a very strong instinct to protect him from the pain of a sting, I let him learn his way. And he figured it out pretty fast, and all on his own, which meant a lot more to him than me telling him why he shouldn't stick his nose in a beehive.
Although, it's hard to watch them learning, peering out the window with my heart in my throat, it also makes me kind of proud. I love to see the wheels turning, watch them make connections, see their bravery and ingenuity. And I suppose it only continues from here. Right now we're just learning within the safety of our own home and yard. The dangers are mainly physical, and those seem quite tame compared to the less tangible dangers outside the home.
The lovely thing is, that while I gave her the room she needed to explore her boundaries on her own, when she reached the edge of her ability she called to me for help. I gladly went and lifted her down, wrapping her in my arms. I like to think that we'll continue that pattern as she grows older, the balance of trust, learning and asking for help when needed. Because isn't knowing when to ask for help just as great a skill as knowing how to climb a tree all by yourself? I could be better at that myself (the asking for help bit, not the tree climbing; I'm awesome at tree climbing!).
After her initial forays into the world of tree (and bush) climbing, she has become somewhat of an expert and I worry less about her now, crawling sure-footed through the branches.