The Weight of an Adult

I have a 15-foot trampoline in my backyard, which I convinced my husband we needed to buy because of my fond childhood memories of trampoline-jumping. Of course, when you get a trampoline, the first thing you hear from everyone is that people are going to get hurt. And it’s true. Any time humans go bouncing around with abandon, there are bound to be some head bonks, botched landings, or abrasions from the net. Sure, there are people out there who have more serious injuries on trampolines, but it hasn’t happened at our house.

While I was watching my kids on the trampoline, I noticed something. The little ones have a much easier time of it. Their lighter weight means that they don’t go too high and they can keep their balance easily. They can be free and experiment with different ways of bouncing. They can leap, flip, and roll. But when an adult gets on with them (which the kids love), everything gets off-balance. The kids can’t stay on their feet as well, and sometimes they bounce a little higher than they expected. Overall they are more likely to get hurt. The adult has to be very careful, holding herself back from full jumps. Often she must resign herself to sitting on the side; but even there, the weight of the adult tilts the whole trampoline.

The same thing happens anytime kids are interacting with each other and an adult inserts herself into the situation. Suppose two kids are having a disagreement, and a well-meaning adult steps in to help. Now the kids’ natural trajectory toward a resolution has been interrupted. They now believe that they can’t solve the dispute themselves. The adult believes that she has helped because the situation appears to be resolved. But what she doesn’t see is that the kids have lost the opportunity to learn how to manage the interaction on their own. The adult has unbalanced the situation by using the weight of her wisdom and authority.

I’m not saying we should never enter into our children’s world. We’re part of their world. However, it’s incumbent on the adult to realize his or her weight in the situation, taking care not to injure the child’s sense of independence and capability. Sometimes, perhaps more often than we would like, the right thing to do is just to sit on the side.

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