I believe that kids and nature belong together, so I encourage my children to play daily outside, exploring their backyard and the natural elements in it. I believe that tree climbing is one of childhood’s greatest joys. I believe that happy kids require both freedom and boundaries. I believe children’s environments should be as safe as necessary, rather than as safe as possible. And I believe that falling down is a normal part of an active childhood.
Yesterday afternoon, my 5 year old fell out of her favourite climbing tree. I was out in the backyard with the kids, saw her fall, and was by her side within seconds. She lost consciousness and suffered an impact seizure, which was scary for both of us. This type of seizure can occur with a concussive brain injury and happens just seconds after impact. When she came to, she was understandably frightened and confused.
The emergency department of our local hospital saw her immediately. (I am so grateful for the way Australian medical professionals prioritise children.) Although shaken, and very overwhelmed by the sights and smells of a hospital – she was alert and cooperative. I cuddled and reassured her, talked her through what was happening, and stayed as calm as I could. She was closely monitored for the first hour or two, then checked hourly until the recommended 6hrs had passed. She was back to her usual self in a few hours though, and spent the last part of her hospital visit bored out of her little brain!
During those six hours at her bedside, I had plenty of time to think about my parenting choices. Could I have prevented her fall? Should I have prevented her fall? Was I doing the right thing allowing her to climb trees? Would I still encourage her to take reasonable risks? Would I change any of my beliefs about children and nature…?
The doctors helped me to retain a commonsense view. One doctor reminded me that she could have fallen anywhere… inside or out. Another laughed about his own tree climbing adventures as a child, and reminisced about the way his mother handled it when he fell. When we were finally discharged at 10pm, he also encouraged Miss 5 to keep climbing and exploring the world.
Today, she is at home enjoying a quiet day under Mummy’s watchful eye. Tomorrow, she’ll be back at school with a great story to tell. Next week, she’ll probably be back up the tree! And me? I guess I’m a little shaken too. No parent ever likes to see their child hurt. There is a little part of my mama-heart that wishes I could wrap my kids up and hold them close to keep them safe. There is a much bigger part of my mama-brain though that reminds me I cannot parent out of fear, and I cannot protect them from all of life’s falls.
And so, I STILL believe that kids and nature belong together, and I will continue to encourage my children to play daily outside, exploring their backyard and the natural elements in it. I still believe that tree climbing is one of childhood’s greatest joys. I still believe that happy kids require both freedom and boundaries. I still believe children’s environments should be as safe as necessary, rather than as safe as possible. And I still believe that falling down is a normal part of an active childhood.