Playing With Fire – Learning Resiliency

“Oh hunny, get down from there you will get hurt!” one mother cried out to my child who was climbing a set of boulders at a park one day. I looked up from the spot where I was sitting and called out, “It’s okay, she’s fine” and smiled. The mom’s jaw dropped and she glared at me, probably thinking to herself what a horrible mother I was for letting my child climb on those rocks. What if she fell? What if she got hurt, skinned a knee or even worse broke a bone?

Playing with Fire by Maria Fuller

So what if she did fall and get hurt? Isn’t that a risk she needs to learn to take? Don’t we as parents need to allow our children to explore at their own pace, push their own limits and see what they are capable of and the repercussions that go along with those choices? I see so many parents these days hovering or “helicoptering” over their children, not allowing them to climb, jump or soar. I hear them saying things like “Get down from there you will get hurt!”, “You don’t want a boo-boo, do you”? “Be careful, you might fall!” I totally understand wanting to wrap your child in a bubble and never letting them get hurt, but at the same time I understand the importance in allowing my child to fall. Yes, I said it, I need my kid to fall, I need her to learn that even when she falls she needs to push through the mental and physical barriers and get right back up and try again if not how will she ever learn to succeed in life?

A little back history on me. I live about 5 minutes away from the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, CT where the deadly school shooting took place a few years ago. My eldest, Alexa was in another Newtown school 5 minutes away that day and laid huddled in the corner of the room in lockdown for hours. A few weeks after the incident, we had a child behavioral therapist come in to talk to us about how to help our children cope with the aftermath and move past all of this stronger. One of the biggest things she spoke about was teaching your child to be resilient. That the children she had worked with in the past that had undergone great trauma in their lives did better recuperating from a tragic event if they were resilient and were able to naturally cope and adapt to changes.

Playing with Fire by Maria Fuller

She spoke about this newest generation of children being brought up with so many “rules” and “safety” features in place. Baby proofing, and removing jungle gyms from school yards, no running at recess or dodge ball because someone might get hurt. While all of these measures are being put in place to try and protect our children, what we are doing is in fact just the opposite, we are hurting our children more than we know. A recent scientific study by Katz et al, “Prefrontal Plasticity and Stress Inoculation-Induced Resilience“, shows how exposure to mild stress as a young child can actually alter the brain in ways that make us better equipped to handle future stress as adults. Parents may feel that by preventing their child from encountering any and all potential hardship they are helping to preserve their emotional well-being, but going through a stress and encouraging them to cope with it effectively will benefit them far more when it comes to being a more resilient, independent, and emotionally stable adult.

So what does this mean? Do we just let them go and play in the streets and wish them luck? Absolutely not! What this means is that we need to allow our children the space to play and challenge themselves in situations that they could potentially get hurt in to test their limits and capabilities. That instead of calling out “Don’t get hurt”, how about “Is that a good choice”? We need to teach them to think critically about their decisions and the repercussions. One activity that was recommended to us was to play with fire! Yes, I said it, play with fire. Fire is an incredible teaching tool with children when done with supervision because it naturally teaches a child to watch for boundaries with the heat. One of the first activities we did with Alexa was to teach her to light a match. Now my husband, a bit of a pyromaniac, was in charge of this activity. The former boy scout learned around her age, 4-5, to light a match so they set off to do so. She was nervous at first and took a lot of coaxing from us to do it and she eventually lit the match and was so so excited. Next is where the real lesson came. She was so excited she want to do it again and lit it and held the burning match just a tad to long and yes, her finger tips got hot or “burned”. Nothing severe, but enough to scare her and warn her. She cried a little and we talked about it and we told her to do it again – and here is where the resiliency lesson came in. She cried and shook her head and refused but we didn’t back down. We promised to work together and watch so that it didn’t happen again and reminded her that if it got warm to blow it out. So after a few minutes, she mustered the strength and courage and did it again, successfully, with no burned fingers. She learned many lessons that day, about fire, heat and to be careful around it and what it could do. She learned to push through mental and physical barriers to acheive something that she was afraid of. She learned that she could overcome obstacles and fears and bounce back. She learned to be resilient.

Playing with Fire by Maria Fuller

If there is one trait I want my girls to learn, it’s resiliency, 100%. Resiliency is what allowed me to work as a paramedic, facing fear and looking death in the eye everyday. Resiliency is what allowed me to turn an injury and early retirement into a new career and to branch out as an entrepreneur and to never give up as many times as I feel beaten down. Resiliency is what allows me to navigate the journey of motherhood and not allow the dark moments to consume me but keeps me floating to the moments of light. Resiliency, the greatest lesson we can teach our children by letting the fall, playing with fire and allowing them to jump, fly and soar to their own limits.

Maria Fuller

I’m a former critical care paramedic with a concentration in Emergency and Disaster Management, an injury on the job led me to retire from that and manage the disaster that is my home these days, I’m lucky I had good training!

I believe in Love at first sight- I met my husband on his 18th birthday and the rest is history

I’m passionate about a women’s right to birth without fear or pressure whether that is at home or in a hospital, I’ve done it in both places.

I have two beautiful girls, Alexa and Arya, 5.5 years apart. I believe each of my daughters was sent to me to remind me of a piece of myself I have lost along the way, it has been exciting journey to rekindle those parts of “ME” again.

We live on a little River in Southbury, CT with our Rotti Beagle mix, a Crazy 1 year old German Shephard and a fat cat that won’t leave the basement, he might be to fat to climb the stairs.

I love a good margarita on the rocks with Salt but ONLY if my husband makes it with hand squeezed lemons, limes and homemade simple syrup, any other margarita sucks.

I listen to “pitbull” in the car with my daughters, they have no idea who Raffi is but Alexa knows most of the words to “Calle Ocho”

I’m the girl who will love you fiercely but is not afraid to “tell you like it is”, if I do, it means I actually care about you!

I love my girls but there are many days I don’t like them or want to be around them. Yep, I just said that, its normal for you to feel that too!

I believe that mothers a given a handbook when their baby is born, its called “intuition” and it will never lead her astray.

I am a photographer who helps women “Celebrate the Courageous journey of motherhood”

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