Have you ever found yourself in the midst of a conversation about childhood memories? Someone mentions the name of an elementary school friend and instantly you’re taken back to the playground during recess, or the time your teacher caught you passing notes in class. Those high school, middle school, and even elementary school files are usually retrievable from the vault, but the farther back you go, the more hazy the details become. “Society” and “Science” would have you believe that the brain simply doesn’t develop the ability to remember until we’re out of the infant stage of life. I, however, have discovered the truth.
Yesterday, I watched as my son, The Jakester, attempted to climb onto the coffee table for the 1,723rd time and promptly fell, bumping his head on the way down. His eyes welled with tears, his bottom lip quivered, and after a brief moment of silence like the calm before a storm, he let out a scream that sent the neighborhood dogs into a howling frenzy. Moments later, he attempted the climb again. I suppose 1,724th time’s a charm.
That’s when it hit me, like Jake’s head against any solid surface, the real reason childhood amnesia exists; we just kept bumping into things!
In my house, not a day goes by sans bruising. Whether it’s another attempt at reaching the summit of Mt. Coffee Table, or Izzy leading Jake in a cute, but dangerously fast, version of “Ring Around the Rosie”, someone inevitably gets hurt. As adults, we’ve mastered skills such as walking and running, that allow us to maneuver through life relatively unscathed. When an incident occurs, such as a stumble or outright fall, we dust it off and remind ourselves to pay more attention. As toddlers however, those skills are still in development and the cause and effect switch hasn’t exactly been turned on yet. So every skinned knee or slightly-concussed cranium results in a brief moment of pain, no lesson learned, and a Groundhog-Day-like replication of the same bruise-inducing action.
As a parent, watching this scene play out over and over again is tough to do. On one hand you feel guilty, i.e. “I’m such a bad parent for letting my child get hurt so often.” On the other hand you feel you’re teaching your little one a lesson, i.e. “He needs to learn that climbing over the baby gate is not a good idea.” So what is the solution to this age-old problem? Helmets. Strap one on your kid’s noggin and let ’em go crazy! Problem solved.
Now I know it may seem a little silly to have your little one walking around all day with a helmet on. No doubt you’ll face some inquisitive looks and hear the whispers of other parents as they walk by. But what they don’t realize is that you are simply providing your child with an advantage as he or she enters the post-toddler era.
Think about this for a minute. They say that the average person only uses 10% of their brain. Why do you think that is? I think it’s because the other 90% has a great big Sesame Street Band-Aid covering up all the “ouchies” it suffered during development. Now what if all those boo-boos could be avoided by the simple addition of one cranial accessory? Suddenly all 100% of the brain is open for business. That’s like 9 times more than normal people…I think. Truth is, my math skills went down hill the day my body went down the hill in the backyard and I hit my head on that tree stump.
Where was I? Oh, right, 9 times more brain power! Think about what Steve Jobs could have done with 9 times more brain power. We’d be living on iPlanet by now.
The point is, if we all weren’t too busy falling off of poorly constructed shelves or losing our grip of the monkey bars and dropping into pits of gravel, we might have changed the world. I’m not suggesting kids stop being daredevils mind you, I’m just asking parents to arm them properly so they may be free to bump into things without fear of stymieing their future successes.
And I’m not saying World Peace can be accomplished by simply giving kids helmets. But think of what people like Gandhi and Mother Theresa could have done with 100% of their brains. Instead, little Mohandas spent the better part of his toddler days falling off a coffee table. Thanks a lot Gandhi’s Mom!