As many of you know, I am an early childhood professional working as a children’s museum consultant. My job involves a fair amount of travel and the entire airport process from start to finish is my least favorite part of my business trips.
Getting my luggage from baggage claim at the end of my journey is one of the hardest tasks. By the time I disembark from the plane, I am tired, usually hungry, and always wishing I had my own set of ruby slippers that would instantly beam me home with the click of my heels. The trip I came home from last week was no exception. I trudged over to baggage claim with no charge left on my cell phone which always puts me in a bad mood and barely enough energy to collect my suitcase and head for home. Wearily I watched the conveyor belt chug along, around and around, hoping that my business-like dark magenta suitcase with the decidedly not business-like cute little identifier pom-pom on the handle would appear very soon.
As I was waiting, something caught my eye. Well, actually, not something, but someone. Sitting on the silver frame of the conveyor belt, but not on the actual moving part of the mechanism, was a little girl about 7 years old. My “watch out for child” safety alert was instantly engaged. She was not in a spot where she would definitely get hurt, but she was certainly in a precarious enough position that she could get hurt. I quickly looked around for adults that belonged to her and I saw a couple, probably her parents, watching her carefully. “Good”, I thought, relaxing a bit. I then saw a small, multi-colored child’s suitcase round the corner on the conveyor belt. Immediately the little girl jumped off the frame on which she had been sitting and stood up straight, tall, and alert. As the bag came close she grabbed the handle, wobbled a little as she wrestled it off the moving belt and then triumphantly stood it on its small wheels and pulled it over to her family. Her smile was as big as her voice was proud. “Mom, I did it! I did it by myself! I told you I could!”
Wow. This entire episode probably only took less than three minutes but I felt like I watched an entire Child Development course flash before my eyes! Her wise parents never once told her to be careful, though they were watching her every minute. And no words along the lines of “let me help you” ever left their mouths. They allowed their daughter to assess the risk of sitting where she chose to wait, and then to accomplish all by herself what needed to be done. Risk-taking is an important part of growing up. And in our modern day and age, there just aren’t the opportunities for children to take risks like there used to be. Very few children today have opportunities to climb and then hang upside down from the top of the monkey bars, soar high above the ground on a teeter-totter, scramble up a tall tree’s branches, or skip rocks at a small, neighborhood creek, which make up many of my fondest childhood memories. Yet, children still have the same need they have always had to learn how to take well thought out risks in life. Her parents seemed to really get that.
And, not only did she learn in those few minutes how to assess her risk and make a good decision, she also found out that she was capable of doing exactly what she knew she could do. Another important life lesson for this brave and confident little girl. If her parents would have jumped in and told her, to be careful, or if they had walked over to help her, this powerful experience would not have had this same positive ending.
They walked away and I turned my attention back to the conveyor belt. There was my dark magenta suitcase with its quite distinctive pom-pom making its way toward me. Time for me to go home and call it a day. Still tired. But smiling.