Don’t say "Is she OK?": Tips for tippy toddlers

by doodaddy on June 24, 2008


I got this. No problem.

Boo took a little spill today at her gymnastics class. I could immediately tell that the fall — a mere few inches onto a soft pad — rated only a “moderate surprise” score on the toddler’s Wheel of Injury. (Other marks on that wheel are “didn’t even notice,” “hug me, for my ego has been bruised,” “I need a Band Aid,” and “call 911.”)

I was brushing her off when a well-meaning but overwrought mom misread Boo’s Wheel of Injury and started to interrogate me vociferously: “Is she OK? Is she hurt?” For a second, I didn’t know who she was talking about, but then it hit me that she misinterpreted a mild faceplant into a plunge of death.

Tip #1: Never try to read another parent’s Wheel of Injury.

Suddenly, along with propping Boobaby up, it became my job to reassure a stranger that Boo’s very life blood was not dripping from her. Even worse, like every toddler, my daughter responds to the stress around her. If you say “Are you hurt?” to an unhurt toddler, she will naturally think that she’s supposed  to be hurt, and usually start crying.

Tip #2: Never betray in your voice that you’re worried when a kid falls. They can tell.

Boo’s experienced histrionics before, so she took little notice but continued pulling herself back up to the equipment. Until, that is, more straw was piled on the camel in the form of our substitute teacher excoriating me for poor spotting skills.

Now, she was probably right to some extent. Boobaby was attempting a “bear walk” on her hands and feet along parallel bars — not the easiest thing for a 2-year old. I could have held on to her butt as she did it, I guess.

Before you convict me of negligence (like many wanted to when they saw this), I should point out that at Boo’s “trapeze class,” the toddler group is not really “taught” exactly — more like “watched” by a teenaged coach who, in this case, seemed a little bitter about not being picked to shepherd one of the more advanced classes. The “Tiny Tots” class is clearly an afterthought.

So when this teacher who’d never seen Boobaby in the gym before pointed out to me, “That takes a lot of upper body strength, you know!” I should have pointed out that Boo has done that very skill a score of times without incident. In fact, I’d say she fell because of all the distractions (like, for example, hysterical parents), rather than lack of bicep. Of course, the should-have-said is always the farthest thing from my mind, and I could only bluster out a lame reply: “Thanks, I’ve got it.”

And finally, I turned back to Boobaby, who was by that point thoroughly confused about why I was chatting with all these nervous grownups instead of getting her back on the bars.

Tip #3: Never assume you know a kid’s abilities and reactions better than her parent.

I’m going to be a terror on the school PTA — I just have no tolerance for bad teachers. Teachers who assume they are omniscient (and that parents are idiots) plain make my teeth itch.

I knew a graphic designer who was always saying “Tsk! Tsk!” (out loud!) whenever he saw anyone else’s designs, especially amateurs. (He told me once that giving secretaries desktop publishing software was like putting a loaded pistol into the hands of a child. He was a little intense.) When you’ve done something professionally — and I was, though an “informal science educator,” still a teacher — your expectations of others in the field rise beyond all expectations.

So, it seems, seeing as we’ve got two kids nearly prepared to undertake their formal education, it’s likely that I’ll be feeling foul about poor teaching for years to come.

I just hope I’m not too much of a jerk about it.

Tip #4: Don’t be a jerk about it, Doodaddy.

Well, at least I’m pretty good at the first three.

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tagged as in crying,teaching,Tips for Doodaddies,unsolicited advice ·

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Xbox4NappyRash June 24, 2008 at 7:01 am

I can visualise you storming into the head masters office and slamming your magazine cover down on his desk….

‘Do you not know who I am!’….


doodaddy June 24, 2008 at 7:20 am

I’ve been trying to avoid carrying a copy around with me for that very purpose.

So I just made it into a t-shirt.


Backpacking Dad June 24, 2008 at 8:32 am

My daughter fell off a couch in front of an entire circle of moms. They are all pretty used to her being the adventurous one, but this was a little shocking (hollow sounding floor) and I had been picking up another kid who was getting into something, so my back was turned.

I could feel all of their eyes on me as I picked my wailing daughter up off the floor. But I could tell she wasn’t hurt, just surprised (and she’s had worse :} ), so I just picked her up and held her slightly in front of me and stared at her until she calmed down. No shushing or weeping apologies. Just letting her, and all of the moms, know that it was no big deal.


doodaddy June 24, 2008 at 9:01 am

It’s funny how the ones that look (and sound) the worst never are, and vice versa.

Nice of the moms to let you handle it, though. I don’t usually get that consideration, except from people who know me.


Michele Shores June 24, 2008 at 9:33 am

My youngest daughter usually just says “ouch”. and goes on unless it is really bad then she will cry and come running to us. My mom is worst about asking a hundred times if you are ok so my older one is more of a drama queen because of it. I try not to play it up so much just are you ok? If she says yes we move on. What is interesting is Sarah is a drama queen when it comes to injuries but has a very high tolerance to pain when it comes to sickness. Most of the time I don’t know she is ill until she is running a high fever and we go to the doctor and she has strep or an ear infection. I have no tolerance for bad teachers either. Sarah has had a gymnastics teacher I did not care for last summer and a ballet teacher I did not care for who totally had an about face the last class when she realized we were taping the class. She was all over Sarah, “no honey do it this way and so sweet.” How about the teacher who called a kindergartener names in front of the class and still gets to keep her job because she has tenure.


doodaddy June 24, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Yeah, I’m pretty much the same. I actually don’t even get to “Are you OK?” because I figure if the answer is “no,” Boo will tell me… I do comment on the fall, though. I usually say something like “Oooh, nice dismount!” or “That looked dramatic!” You know — to acknowledge that I’m not just ignoring her.


Dawn June 26, 2008 at 11:18 am

Five years doing daycare with the under-two crowd & the cardinal rule was you never ever make a big deal about a tumble. You could tell while ones required immediate attention. We had a standard smiling reply of “rub it!” in a carefree sounding voice and the kids really responded to that, most of them doing it all on their own as we secretly assessed the situation out of the corners of our eyes.

Oh & I am totally the same way with my tolerance (read: lack thereof) when it comes to daycare providers. All my friends who need to utilize such services always ask me my thoughts on XYZ situation, knowing that I fully expect anyone else who performs this immesely important dutyshould be able to do it to the same standards I did.


doodaddy June 30, 2008 at 12:06 am

“Rub it” — that’s a good one! What I hate is when *other* parents get *my* kid all upset by acting like ninnies.


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