still falling

April 8th, 2019

Several years ago, I took a rather astonishing degree of encouragement from a study examining how babies learn to walk. I’m not sure how I found the research, but I must have gone looking for it. Perhaps I was trying to shed the expectation that as our children grow up things shouldn’t be so hard for them. I might have been thinking that I’d missed a critical element of good parenting, and had therefore shortchanged my daughter in a damning way. Just so you know, I’m not so evolved that I don’t think idiotic things.

The study concluded that as they learn to walk, babies fall on average 17 times an hour. I could hardly believe it. To realize that I’d been present as my baby busted her bottom on our unforgiving hardwoods hundreds of times a day was utterly inconceivable to me. As parents, it never occurs to us to count the falls. We don’t consider falling down to be an obstacle, interruption, or failure. From our perspective, and perhaps from the baby’s, falling is inseparable from walking. You might even say that a fall isn’t a step backward, but a step forward. Learning anything new is a kind of falling: letting go of preconceptions, expectations, and in general, whatever we think we can or can’t do.

It might sound like I’m talking about babies. But I’m talking about myself. The question I am asking is whether I am still learning. Yes, I am, if I’m still falling.


  1. So encouraging really Maezen. Ain’t it the truth. More encouragement as we stumble along – less criticism. Love to all us stumbles. ??? rosebud

    Comment by Rosebud sparer — April 8, 2019 @ 3:32 pm

  2. Maybe the key lies in not counting the falls. I love your authenticity. Thank you for the big dose of real. 

    Comment by Bonnie Rae — April 8, 2019 @ 4:27 pm

  3. That’s why babies wear diapers, to cushion their fall. Our youngest wanted to be mobile so very badly (she was extremely frustrated about not being able to move since she was born) that she would fall -obviously hurt herself- but get up and stubbornly continue her practice (with a red face).
    But I agree, there is no point in life where you have learnt all your lessons and can start living “happily ever after”. I too am still learning (to my own detriment).

    Comment by Simone — April 9, 2019 @ 12:24 am

  4. PS just saw the last episode of the BBC series Fleabag. A beautiful series about a young woman who makes mistakes. Very very funny. Heartwrenchingly so. If you can find it somewhere, watch it!

    Comment by Simone — April 9, 2019 @ 5:18 am

  5. Wonderful! I had no idea they fell so often. Though I did know they fall. Our daughter fell a lot, and for the most part it didn’t seem to phase her. She’d just get back up and carry on. We do need to emulate them.



    Comment by Tom — April 9, 2019 @ 8:44 am

  6. Finally, after many rereadings, I realize, as a frequent stumbler and faller, that it would be a vast improvement if I could fall like the feather in the photo. Wouldn’t that be lovely? Thank you for the inspiration of possibility.

    Comment by mj — April 11, 2019 @ 2:13 am

  7. A long time ago a friend of mine returned from a year in Germany, where her host family had taught her how to ski. The secret to learning to ski, she told me, is to laugh every time you fall down. Because you’re going to fall down a lot, and this way you have fun doing it.

    I have used that lesson many times in many situations since then.

    Comment by Dylan Tweney — May 16, 2019 @ 8:57 pm

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