Theo falls down often. It used to be because he was learning how to walk, then run, and he wasn’t too sure on his feet. Now it is typically because he is running too fast or he trips on something. Or, he falls on purpose.
He’s been doing this more lately, pretending to crash while pushing his lawn mower in the backyard, pretending to fall while we race around the house. He does it mostly for entertainment, I think. Crashes are cool, an unexpected turn in the mostly mundane. But they are especially cool when they don’t hurt. This is what he is really after, even if he doesn’t know it.
Falling can be scary. Falling can hurt. It comes out of nowhere and takes you down. By pretend falling, Theo is able to normalize the experience, to gain a better understanding of what it is like to hit the ground. And he gets to do it on his own terms, slowly at first, bracing himself completely and lowering himself to the ground. Sometimes he even falls so gracefully that he can lean back on his hands, relaxed as if nothing special is going on.
This practice comes in handy when the real falls come. He doesn’t get as upset by them anymore. He can laugh off a fall, appreciate the surprise instead of being scared by it.
As with most failure, the expectation of it is usually worse than the actuality. The experience of failure can help us normalize it, help us realize that it doesn’t hurt as bad as it seems. We can learn to embrace failures when the risks are low, especially if we learn from them.
I probably don’t fail often enough in my life, which means I’m not taking enough chances. I’m not putting myself out there as much as I should because the possibility of failing is there. And it is scary. I need to do more practice falling.
Having said all that, Theo still sometimes has nasty spills. He gets his feet tangled going full speed or slips on the tile and hits the ground before he has time to get his hands out or brace himself. It is painful, and it is scary. And the only thing to do in that case is cry for a while and look for someone to provide reassurance and comfort.
That happens to us sometimes too.