Why I Teach Them How to Fall: A Lesson Learned On the Slippery Slopes of Life

Skiing down the majestic slopes of Mt Hood, my little girl raced ahead of me, weaving in and out of passing skiers. Uncontrolled in her movements, I watched in horror as she entered the tree-lined bank, crashing into a twisted heap of skis, legs, and gear. Rushing to her side, I found equipment littering the landscape and fresh tears falling down her cold, pink cheeks. Sprawled flat on her back, she muttered this one simple question,

“why does it hurt so bad to fall?”

Bending down, I gently picked her up from the ground. Dusting the fresh powder out of her hair, I looked intently into her eyes and replied,

“because I haven’t taught you how to fall properly.”

Falling is inevitable. Not just on the ski slopes but on the treacherous avenues of life too. There will be times we fail, and occasions where we get knocked down. Life will inevitably be littered with moments, or seasons, of discouragement and pain. This fallen, broken world guarantees it. Hardship will come, suffering is inevitable, and trials will surface.

Affirming this truth, 1 Peter 4:12 says,

“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the present trial, as though something strange were happening to you.”

As parents, it is hard to watch our kids hurt. Wanting to avoid it at all cost,  we step across boundary lines and try to make things right. We advocate for better grades. Beg the coach for another tryout. Plead for a re-test in math class. We even help position them to make the right friends.

Likewise, we employ ways to prevent our kids from seeing us struggle. We hide the truth about the job layoff. Skirt around the facts about how bad Grandma’s cancer really is. Wipe the tears away before they get home from school. Maybe we think hardship makes us look weak. Perhaps it undermines our authority. Surely they would see that we don’t have all the answers and aren’t perfect after all.

Teaching our kids how to fall is one of the most difficult, yet loving things we can do as parents. It can help them avoid the scariest consequences and encourage them to cope appropriately. It allows them to see that we aren’t defined by a single mistake or by a dream gone awry. Providing a playing field for God’s power and faithfulness, His grace is on display for them to experience firsthand. After all, His desire is to produce things of lasting value in their lives, like the ability to persevere and run their race with endurance.

Romans 5:3-5 says,

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

James 1:2-4 teaches,

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”

Perseverance, character, and hope, maturity, and completeness – I should value those above the safe and easy road, even though it goes against my human nature and motherly instinct. I must teach my children, not how to avoid falling, but how to fall with grace on their side.

As we arrived safely down to the lodge, I led my daughter over to a small hill where we could practice falling. Modeling it for her, she traced my steps and followed my lead. Laying beside one another on the cold snow, I showed her how to pick one ski up at a time, lining them up for an easier ascension. Grabbing hands we safely got back on our feet in unison.  And with a smile on her face, she turned and asked to ride up the mountain once again. Ready for the next adventure, undeterred by the risk of falling once again.

One day she will journey the mountain of life on her own. I won’t be by her side every day to catch her or help pick up the pieces. My prayer is that she will have experienced God’s steadfastness throughout her life, so she can lean on Him to help place her back on solid ground.

And that takes practice, and me willing to show her how.

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