As soon as they can maintain the neck strength to support their smiling heads, babies and parents enjoy the act of tossing the little ones up in the air and catching them. The babies run the range of emotions from the freedom of flying, the fear of falling and the reassurance of being caught. Not to mention the tickle in their tummy. Parents get a chance to express their feeling of responsibility (what goes up must come down, gently) and also a chance to experience developing the bonds that are crucial and enjoyable.
This opportunity for bonding doesn’t end when the babies become too big to toss into the air. My boys are both too heavy and too tall to throw around (it hurts my back to even think about it) but we still have chances to experience the ups and downs, and to catch them from time to time. Now, though, it is more of an emotional tickle that they feel but the catch has to be just as gentle.
Recently both our boys won their class spelling bees and were promoted to the school-wide competition. I tried to encourage them a bit and told them I would really like to see them facing off in the finals. It was of course a stretch, and they seemed to take it in stride rather than have it add any stress to the day. This morning, when they headed off to school, they were excited for the competition and ready to do their best.
I realized that the competition aspect had a chance to end well, or really bad.. If one of them cracked or performed exceptionally poorly it would require some gentle catching. I had built them up, encouraged them and dotted on them for doing so well at winning their class competitions, and now had to brace for the possible fall. But it wasn’t just building them up, it was genuine pride in their accomplishment and that type of emotion is hard for me to contain.
When my wife picked up the boys, I asked her to text me the spelling bee results. She reported that we had a bit of drama- my youngest had ended 5th for the school and 2nd for his grade. My oldest was eliminated in the 3rd round and was a little upset. I was sad for him knowing that he was disappointed but also proud that he cared enough to be disappointed. He had the competitive spirit (not sure where he gets that from, wink, wink) and was justly upset for not doing better.
He got over it quickly. His attention was turned (partly through the guidance of his mother) to other things including helping her with a bike repair and helping me advance our efforts in a video game. These little jobs seemed to help and by the time I got home he seemed fine and we all had a great time just hanging out together watching a movie. He had been caught, he was back to the safety of home and his parents and he seemed happy.
After some time passes (a day or two), we’ll talk about it a little bit. I’ll try to find out what happened and help provide some guidance for the next time. My youngest told me that the word he missed was because he didn’t hear it properly and that he should have asked for it to be used in a sentence- a trick that experience will teach and it sounds like he is already learning from it. And the same will likely be true for my oldest- we will find something from this to learn from and add to the lessons in life. For now, I am just happy to have him caught and to be able to see the smile on his face as he realizes the fall wasn’t so bad after all.