There’s a great deal of maternal anxiety about sharp tools, about speed and about general shenanigans off the ground – in trees and on walls. Tools can injure fingers and going fast or climbing high can damage knees, elbows, wrists and ankles. Yes, sure.
I like well-functioning ankles as much as the next mummy but whereas an unlucky fall can take months to repair, a sedentary life swipes a decade off your life expectancy. A small percentage of the population will suffer from an injured joint at some point, whereas coronary heart disease is the single biggest killer in the UK and worldwide. Health is complicated and some fitness fanatics will be genetically disposed for heart trouble, but throw in all the lifestyle factors relating to various types of cancers, and we can safely say that the sofa is a wildly more dangerous place to be than the hillside.
After a couple of years of looking after a toddler, looking out for dangers in your child’s way becomes engrained. As mother, you measure yourself in how comprehensive a protection service you offer. Woe the father who lets the child play near a toolbox. A curse upon him if he leaves his hot coffee in the play room. This lively imagination for possible accidents finds new channels as the child grows. That tree branch your daughter climbs on might be rotten. That wall your son is balancing on might be crumbling.
But all a lot less probable than that your cosseted child stays slightly uncoordinated, lacking in both the self-confidence and the motor skills to use her body fully. And that surely is a downwards spiral of passivity. Athleticism and physical prowess isn’t just honed in sports, with familiar degrees of risk. (Rugby high – table tennis low). They are equally nurtured on the walk home from school, when messing about in the garden or while exploring some castle ruins.
Accept the prospect of a broken finger or a torn ligament in both sports and play. Some of your best instincts, which served your child so well the first years, are quite likely a hindrance as they grow.
We all know the score by now – “Let it go”.
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