Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Falling Down And Getting Back Up

She bends her legs, grunts, uses every bit of strength in her tiny body and pulls herself up to standing.

The grin that follows says it all: triumphant! So proud of herself, she looks around to see who might be watching. "Check me out! Look what I've done! Have you ever seen anything so impressive?" she seems to say.

As quickly as it happened, it's over. The little legs give out, she topples down onto her bottom, and giggles hysterically.

And then she does it all over again.

There's nothing much more entertaining than watching children learn to stand, or to be more exact, watching them fall. I marvel as I see my baby girl take those first tentative steps toward taking steps, and wish I could be more like her.

For a baby, not only is falling down not a big deal, it's downright enjoyable. In a baby's eyes, falling down is just part of the adventure, another part of the cycle. For babies, failure to stand doesn't translate to failure. Failure as we know it doesn't even exist. (It also doesn't hurt that everyone watching applauds the effort and encourages another attempt.)

At some point that changes. I can already see it beginning to happen with my 3-year-old, as frustration creeps in and tries to block his best efforts. He stacks his Legos into a tower but when it comes crashing down he no longer finds it funny, and needs to be reminded (through his tears and tantrums) that he can in fact put it back together, if he'll just try again.

I've had a few setbacks recently, I've taken a few falls both professionally and personally. There was the job that was offered that I couldn't take. Another job I dreamed of that was never even offered. The phone call I waited for that never came. Frustrations with a family member that don't seem to be easing up. Surprising behavior from someone I thought was a friend. With each stumble, it's been feeling harder and harder to get back up and start over again. I like to think of myself as a positive person, I like to believe I've learned how to pull myself back up when need be. But right now it's a struggle. I find myself thinking it's easier to just sit still rather than risk another fall.

As we get older, falling down seems to become so much more painful, and getting back up so much more of an effort. Is the ground really that much further away? Or do we just know too much about the risks of what lurks below?

I've never been one who suffered from a fear of failure, or someone who shied away from an opportunity. I don't want to start now- what message would that send to my kids? It's time to get back up, to focus on standing without overthinking the whole act.

So as I watch my little one on a seemingly endless loop of scrambling to her feet, tumbling down, laughing it off and starting over, I make a promise to that sweet baby girl:

I will hold your hand and help you to stand, I will try to always be there to cushion your fall, if you will keep teaching me how to get back up.

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