I Let My Kids Hurt Themselves -- For Their Own Good

baby diving off couch
My boy, before he dived off the couch
So, you know all those things they tell you about toddler boys being really active and wild and mischievous? You know those warnings from Moms of older boys, that usually come with that, "Oh just you wait" smirk? Well, I guess I really should have listened because now that my twins are upright, they've turned into pint-size stuntmen. God help me!

They're climbing on the bookshelves, hanging off the baby gates, walking up slides and racing up playground steps. I want to be cool about it, I do -- not hover, not panic, just let boys be boys. But, dammit, they're my little precious baby boo-boo's and they're going to hurt themselves! Am I really supposed to let them learn the hard way?


Their latest stunt, the one that is really giving me heart palpitations, is their desire to head dive off of the armrest of the couch, onto the hardwood floor. They climb right up there (sometimes throwing a pillow on the ground for that extra leverage), crawl over to the side, and then hang off the edge. Why, why, why?! The room has been baby-proofed, or at least, I thought it had. What is going on in those mischievous little brains that they managed to create a way to hurt themselves? I'm always in the room when they try and usually on the couch, so I'm quick to grab a leg or the back of their T-shirts and pull them back from the brink. But I started getting worried about what would happen when I'm not in the room.

So I mentioned it in my Mommy group the other day, hoping for some advice on discipline. Instead, they told me to just throw some pillows on the ground or create a ball pit and let them fall. Wait, what?! That's not what I expected to hear. But as the other moms of boys explained to me, all in agreement, it would only be a matter of time until they did it, so I might as well make it safe.

But, here's the thing: Aren't we supposed to protect our kids from harm? Isn't that kind of my job as their Mom? It goes against all my maternal instincts to be like, "Yeah, kid, go for it, let's hope it doesn't hurt too much." I mean, they fall down twenty times a day -- I can't prevent every trip and tumble. But when I'm able to protect them, shouldn't I?

Then, I thought about the other side of the argument: No, I really can't be there to keep them safe, every minute of every day. I can try, but I also don't want to be one of those hovering, anxious parents who audibly, dramatically gasps every time her kid falls down. These kids of mine seem pretty determined to dive off of that couch, so I decided that, okay, I was going to let them. If I want them to be brave, maybe I need to be brave too.

So buoyed by what I heard in my group the other day ("Yeah, he totally took a header and banged his face but he's fine."), I set up a "safe zone." I took a squishy toy box that we have and filled it with soft toys and inflatable balls and a pillow, and put it right beneath the armrest. Maybe this would be like Murphy's Law, I thought. Maybe, now that it's safe, he won't want to dive off the armrest. Oooh no, it was just as enticing as ever.

As usual, my boy headed right for that armrest, flinging his upper body off of the side. Rather than grab him, I held my breath, winced and waited for the inevitable dive. For a brief moment, it looked like maybe his real goal was just to hang there, not jump. So, being the genius I am, I grabbed the camera aaaaaand...he fell face first into the box.

Of course, I gasped and (I think) screamed, "Nooooooooo." Honestly, it's a blur. But there he was, face down in the box of soft toys. After a beat, he started to cry, of course, and I picked him up and held him and said, like the all-knowing Mommy I am, "See, that's what happens when you try to dive off the couch." But he was okay, he was definitely okay. And, knock on wood, he seemed to get over the fascination, and answered the question of, "I wonder what would happen if..." because he hasn't done it again since, oh, yesterday.

I mean, he and his brother are little imps, so chances are they're probably going to try that or some other death-defying stunt again. If it's not the couch, it's going to be something else, right? So maybe it's not such a bad idea to let them climb and fall, as long as I've made sure that they can't really hurt themselves. Obviously, it's going to continue to scare the bejesus out of me, but I think that maybe I need to let my boys be boys.

What do you think? Do you think you should let your kids explore, even if there's a chance they might hurt themselves?

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