Most sensitive people, whether or not they are parents, have a natural instinct to protect children. It’s never fun to see a child hurt, even if it’s just a scratched knuckle. Still, children need to take on physical challenges in order to learn and grow, and childhood bumps and bruises teach them valuable lessons about their own limits.
In my youth I danced ballet, jazz and modern and over the years I have broken a few toes. As an equestrian-loving teen, I once fell off of a horse while crossing a stream. In 1972, I miscalculated the center of an amusement park trampoline and landed on the gravel. One and two-hand cartwheels were my specialty, but I stopped when pregnant with my fifth child. For the next two decades, I refrained from any physical activity that might cause me harm. I grew fat and developed osteoarthritis. Even dancing the hora at a wedding left me limping.
Quite unexpectedly, two years ago my husband and I became contestants on a reality television show that was physically demanding. We were ultimately disqualified, but not before I swung on a rope between several tower-high shipping containers and crash landed. He was gored by a bull in Madrid. We returned to Israel wrapped in gauze and relied on crutches and arm braces for a while. We’d do it again in a heartbeat.
The show rekindled a desire to engage in activities that were physical, challenging and age-defying. This did not mean that I would bungee-jump or enter the Iron-Man Triathlon. It simply meant that I’d leave the car at home more often and ride a bicycle. It meant that instead of lying on the rocks while vacationing on the Gulf of Aqaba, I’d learn to snorkel. It meant that I’d give up Yoga-for-Seniors and take up Zumba and enter spinning marathons in Israel.
Sometimes there are “oops” moments despite our newfound sportiness. Last week, both my husband and I fell off of our respective bicycles. In my case, despite toppling over the handlebars on a busy city street, my ego hurt far worse than my scraped knee and broken sunglasses. My husband, however, tackled a stone ramp and lost the contest. We spent a few hours in the emergency medical center having his hand x-rayed, bones realigned without anesthetic and getting casted.
Neither one of us sports a tattoo. But if bruises and scars can be called body-art, we are side-show attractions. I’m satisfied that chances are meant to be taken and neither of us would exchange a bump or bruise for a single given experience. And, even when our children roll their eyes and tell us how embarrassed we make them feel, we say “pshaw, pshaw” and get down to business as usual. Our first aid kits are packed with bandages, antiseptic, love, experience and laughter.
You fall down and get up, brush yourself off and keep going. It’s called “living.”
New York-born Andrea Simantov is a mother of six who moved to Jerusalem in 1995. She frequently lectures on the complexity and magic of life in Jerusalem and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.