It’s Not All Mary Poppins

I’ll Pick Door Number Two for Emotional Resiliency, Dave

Door Number One:
A child, about 18 months old, falls in the playground. There’s a slight pause, that hesitation between stimulus and response. Tender mommy rushes over. “Oh, sweetie, are you okay?” Her voice oozes concern. Child looks at her, and starts to wail. Mommy cuddles and soothes. “He’s just so sensitive,” she says to me, raising her voice over the increasing cries.

Door Number Two:
A child, about 18 months old, falls in the playground. There’s a slight pause, that hesitation between stimulus and response. Cheerful dad watches. Child looks towards dad, and dad calls out in a hearty, cheerful voice. “Wow, what a big Kaboom!! Fall down!” He spreads his arms and laughs. Tot grins back at dad, levers her little butt up in the air and achieves upright again, then trots off to play. “She’s a tough little nut,” says dad. “Just takes these things right in stride.”

© Mary P

December 19, 2005 - Posted by | Developmental stuff, parenting, parents, socializing


  1. Go Cheerful dad!

    Comment by LoryKC | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  2. The mothers in my old playgroup used to look at me like I was insane when my daughter used to have big falls and I would cheer and clap. They eventually caught on.

    Comment by Misfit Hausfrau | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  3. All the other mothers were fine when I laughed & clapped Mstr A for falling over. They were horrified when i did the same for LMB.

    Gender equality anyone?

    Comment by Mrs.Aginoth | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  4. Door number two for me too, please.

    Life gave me two wonderful daughters; concerning that, there was no choice. But, I can sure choose to raise them to be “lifeproof”. No sissy girly princesses for me! (For the record, they are very feminine, but I don’t consider that to be the same as sissy girliness; i.e. the solving of problems by crying or screaming.)

    Comment by Simon P. Chappell | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  5. Yes, this falls under the category I commented under the other day: Don’t ASK your kid if s/he’s okay. TELL her/him s/he’s okay.

    Comment by jen-o-rama | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  6. Door number 2 any day!! K’s learned the word crash and boom courtesy of me because I refuse to let her act like she’s really hurt when she’s not! I learned when I first started babysitting to not react strongly unless a kid is bleeding or something, and even then your reaction is going to affect theirs!

    Comment by Angela | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  7. Lory: Yup. The characters in this post are not specific people, but they’re people I’ve seen dozens of times in parks, at playgroups, and yes, even in my front hall. Go Cheerful Dads! (And moms!)

    Hausfrau: They caught on when they noticed that yours was the kid who just got up, dusted herself off, and kept playing while theirs rolled on the floor and wailed helplessly. Gratifying, isn’t it?

    MrsA: How silly is that? Do you want a resilient child – male or female – or do you want a clinging whiner? Weepy wailing is no better coming from a girl than a boy. The things we do to ourselves. Honestly.

    Simon: “Sissy girliness” is taught, and thus completely unnecessary. I’ve never had much patience for it, either. Some people out there equate it with femininity and think it’s cute, or even unavoidable, but of course that’s simply not true. As your girls prove!

    Jen-o-rama: It was your statement that inspired this post. I read it and thought of this scenario. There are dozens more for this same principle: it’s a great parental tip.

    Angela: Small children take their emotional cues from the adults around them. You act like it’s a big trauma, and the child will cry; you act like it’s funny, they’ll laugh. I find it odd that so many parents/caregivers don’t figure that one out.

    Comment by Mary P. | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  8. We had a family stay with us last year for only a few days. Every single time Tod-lar fell down, they all would suck in their breaths at the same time. Then Tod-lar would freak out once he heard their response. I finally had to tell them to stop doing that and let Tod-lar tell us whether or not he was really hurt.

    I should also note that research has demonstrated that fathers are more physical with their children (engaging them in more rough and tumble play) and allow them to be more daring at the playground, both of which are EXTREMELY important to the development of independence and self-esteem.

    Way to go Dads!

    Comment by MIM | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  9. Elcie, our c.p. girl who walks with crutches when she’s outdoors, took a big spill four years ago at the Fairgrounds. We were right in front of the County Sheriff. She was fine, he wasn’t. We had the hardest time convincing the Sheriff that Elcie, who by that time had been helped to her feet (by the Sheriff who reacted quickly) and was laughing, had learned to fall before she learned to walk.

    For a minute I thought he was going to radio for an ambulance. He had turned pale.

    It was hard for us to learn not to grab for her every time she was wobbly but learn we did for her sake. I hope our nice Sheriff finally understood.

    Comment by Granny | December 19, 2005 | Reply

  10. Granny:
    That’s a great story!

    Comment by Q | December 20, 2005 | Reply

  11. mim: The “Gaspers”. Have they been back? Will they ever??

    The results of the study don’t surprise me (that men are more physical, etc.) What might surprise some people is that it’s a GOOD thing to let them take some risks and tumbles.

    Granny: Oh, what a nice man, poor fellow! His response was sweet, if a little excessive. Not such a bad way for Elcie to learn that Policemen Are Our Friends!

    Q: xoxo

    Comment by Mary P. | December 20, 2005 | Reply

  12. I have an uncle who always told his boys to ‘walk it off’ when they fell down.

    The other night, my boys were playing and Charlie thunked into something, and I heard Henry say, ‘Walk it off, Charlie.’

    And Charlie said, ‘It’s all good, Henry.’

    Swear to god.

    Comment by Susan | December 20, 2005 | Reply

  13. Susan: Oh, that’s wonderful!! I love it! “Walk it off, Charlie!” “It’s all good, Henry.” Your guys are too cute!

    Comment by Mary P. | December 20, 2005 | Reply

  14. I’ve always employed Door Number Two tactics to both of my kids, but damn it all if Sophie isn’t a “sissy girl” in spite of me.

    Comment by misfit | December 20, 2005 | Reply

  15. Well, she sure as heck didn’t get it from her momma! What can you do, huh? Hope she outgrows it, I guess…

    Comment by Mary P. | December 20, 2005 | Reply

  16. Sweet Boy says, “bonk-ow-sorry” like it is all one phrase. It makes me grin just thinking about it.

    The only ones that really make me cringe are the really big theatric falls…. like when he slipped in water and smacked his head on the bathroom floor…. he looked at me, rubbed his head and said, “ow, mama, ice?” and I have to wonder where he learned that?? Daycare? Daddy? Watching me put ice packs on my back??

    Comment by Homestead | December 20, 2005 | Reply

  17. My sister-in-law does “shake it off” when her kids fall or hurt themselves, so we adopted that when our kids were born. Bryce is very literal, and he’s taught Quinn to physically shake. So he’ll stand up and kind of walk-quiver away while he says, “shake it off, shake it off”…hilarious.

    Comment by Kristen | December 20, 2005 | Reply

  18. […] much empathy Nissa, trotting along the hall, takes a small tumble and looks up, checking for response from any adults in the vicinity. Typical toddler […]

    Pingback by too much empathy « It’s Not All Mary Poppins | January 7, 2010 | Reply

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