A few weeks ago, as Alex and I sprawled out in the living room prepping for a quiet Saturday night at the Jersey Shore, the door burst open with the arrival of our good friends Katie and Ronnie and their 15-month old (you're supposed to measure a child's age in months right?) blonde bouncing girl named Emma. After unsuccessful attempts to hold her and pet her head like a puppy, she squirmed out of my arms, wanting to explore the new territory of Al's living room. She quickly started stumbling around, picking up non-child proof friendly porcelain shells, gnawing on a bagel, and doing a labyrinth around the coffee table.
As my eyes dizzingly darted to and from her endless movements, Emma suddenly crashed to the ground, tripping over her still wobbly-walking feet. Alex and I grimaced as we waited for her to start crying, and I impulsively brought my hands to my ears to drone out the shrill of her shrieking (can you tell I'm not a parent yet?). But Emma didn't cry. Instead, she paused as she absorbed the shock of the fall, looked at her parents, broke out into a huge smile, and started clapping.
(this is not Emma, this a is a photograph of a cute baby that I stole from the internet)
As one who is constantly looking for information as to how best heathily manipulate a child, I asked Katie what the heck had just happened.
"Oh, it's simple," Katie responded matter of factly. "We taught Emma at a young age that falling is fun, so every time she falls, we clap for her. And now, she claps for herself."
"That is genius!" I shrieked, jumping up from the couch and running to Emma to coo "I can't believe your parents duped you into clapping when you fall, you cute most gullible little thing I've ever seeeen. Your parents are soooo smaaart and sneaaaaky hmmmmm??? (gurgle gurgle cooo gag)."
Emma looked at me blankly in that, "please get out of my face you idiot" sort of way.
And, in a way, compared to Emma, I was the idiot. Because Emma had already learned (at a very young age), that making mistakes and falling (or failing) was not cause for crying or pain. Rather, it was an opportunity to pause, to smile, and to clap in celebration, and then, to simply get back up and start stumbling around life once again (perhaps to gnaw on some more bagels).
You know you've a got a lot to learn when a 15 month old proves wiser than you.