Our family was on vacation at a beautiful resort hotel. My 3.5-year old son Henry took his balancing bike with him. One day, Henry and I were touring the property. He was riding his bike. He started to go down a fairly steep hill. I wondered if he could handle it or if I should move closer. Unfortunately, the bike went faster and faster, and started to wobble. I couldn’t reach him in time, and he took quite a fall on his face (he wore a helmet). I was in shock and ran over. Henry was crying really hard. I sat down on the ground, pulled him into my lap and started to listen.
His mouth was bleeding pretty hard. He was swallowing some blood. I got the sense that he was quite scared. From previous experiences, I knew that the mouth tends to bleed hard easily and that is was not common to stitch inside the mouth. People were rushing over to offer first aid and ice. I said that we might need it later but that we were fine for now. Some of the people looked at me with disbelief and what I interpreted as negative judgment but I decided to focus on my son. I really wanted to try to listen & be present, as I had heard beautiful stories of how listening to a child express their hurt could benefit the emotional & physical healing process.
I saw Henry’s lip swell quite a bit and darken in color. I got a little bit scared and nervous, as it looked quite intense to me. He also swallowed quite a bit of blood. I put those thoughts aside however and kept listening to him. People continued to approach us and shared their thoughts about what needed to be done. I felt that they thought I was a really bad mother as I was, in their eyes, not doing anything. I kept guarding Henry and our connection, and I focused on us. Henry was still crying really hard.
The bleeding had stopped. It was reassuring to notice that all his teeth seemed to have stayed intact. Henry started making requests while crying. I listened to him and responded that for now, I just wanted to listen. Once in a while, I said “You fell off your bike,” or “You hurt your lip.” The crying went on for about 20 or 30 minutes. Towards the end of his crying episode, the most amazing thing happened: the swelling of his lip went down and it turned back to almost its regular color. I could not believe my eyes. If I had not witnessed this process myself, I would have had a hard time believing that this could happen. At some point, Henry was done crying.
I suggested that we continue our walk. Henry said that he wanted me to carry him. I acknowledged what he said and then suggested that he try to walk. He started to walk. Then I said, “If you want to, you can go on your bike.” He said, “Yes,” and proceeded to get on his bike. It was amazing.
The people who observed us looked positively surprised. I wondered what they were thinking now about my parenting style, and I felt pleased with myself. In the afternoon, Henry and I went for another walk and he went down the same steep hill, this time with grace. My heart warmed up with gratitude. His lip looked almost normal, and healed entirely within the next 2 to 3 days. I felt I had just experienced an almost miraculous solution to helping my child with physical hurts.
-A Parenting by Connection mother in Los Angeles
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