I come to you as a reformed “be careful” mom. I’ll raise my hand and say I’ve quit saying that to my kids. I’ve come to the conclusion they don’t hear it, so it is as worthwhile as saying, “banana ice skates”. On top of that, I don’t want them to “be careful”. Instead, I want them to do their own risk assessment and decide if their body is safe with what they are doing. And, sometimes, it won’t be and my son will break his nose. Yep, I’m the mom that didn’t say “be careful” and my son broke his nose.
I don’t think my saying, “be careful” would have changed it. He still would have broken his nose. Because his impulse control is low at six. And his desire to climb and play is high at six.
It was your average day of Forest School (full disclosure, when I’m not drinking wine with you fellow moms of Bleeping Motherhood, I’m helping set up outdoor forest play communities with Forest School For All) in our Explorers group. The kids were playing on a fallen tree root system, discovering and digging around it. Getting in to that dirty kind of play you want kids to be doing. The kids had been to this area many times and really have been finding more and more ways to play with a pile of fallen trees, and this dirt digging was the newest way.
Then I heard THE YELL. My son is like a Timex – he can take a licking and keep on ticking. So when he started to yell then cry, I knew it was serious. I ran to him and there was blood all over his face. Funny thing about face wounds – those really like to bleed. And nothing amps up the stress quite like a ton of blood everywhere.
We do an injury assessment – determine what hurts, see it is still bleeding, and realize that we’re heading for urgent care.
As reformed “be careful” mom, can I just get a shout out that this was our first visit to urgent care? At the time, I had a six year old destructive boy, a four year old climbing billy goat daughter, and this was our first visit to urgent care.
Over the course of the next week, he saw urgent care doctors and nurses, our pediatrician and an ear nose and throat doctor. As I told the story of what happened, he was playing outside in the woods, the root system he was digging in caved and he fell and landed on his nose, every single medical professional said, “that’s exactly what kids need to be doing, playing outside and taking risks”.
Oh, did I mention we were having professional photos taken the next day, for the first time ever, for our Christmas card? Bleeping motherhood!!! Of course my son would break his nose after I’d just spent $$$ on matching outfits.
I’m not going to say I don’t put limits on my kids. I try to keep them away from high cliffs and jagged rocks. I warn them about thorn bushes and poison ivy. I will talk to them when they are engaged in risky play (when they aren’t concentrating) to remind them to evaluate the things they are standing on/climbing to make sure it is a safe idea. I won’t put them in places they can’t get to themselves; if they can get there themselves, they can figure out how to get down themselves. But I won’t say, “be careful” as part of breathing out.
The good news? The ENT doctor felt his nose was broken but was setting straight. It would heal without a need for a splint of any kind. The photographer? Very kindly rescheduled for the next weekend when the swelling reduced and the black eye subsided. Her touch up skills were phenomenal too. I did come out of it with a bloody jacket, but that was about the worst of it (outside of the pain and fear my son experienced).
Ultimately, his nose healed perfectly. I grant, we were lucky. It could have been worse. But both kids (and the other kids they played with) learned more about risk assessment that day.
He could have also broken his arm rolling off a playground bench as happened to a friend of mine and her child. Playing in the forest isn’t why he broke his nose. Me walking around behind him saying “be careful” isn’t why he broke his nose. He broke his nose because he’s still learning how to understand safe and dangerous situations, and I’ll be there to help wipe up the blood as he keeps learning.
Are you the kind of mom that says “be careful”? Are you the kind of mom that lets your kids take all kinds of risks? Are you both kinds of mom and keeps a flask in your pocket? Tell us about it~comment below or continue the conversation on the Bleeping Motherhood Facebook page.