Risky play is A-OK, says this dad with hemophilia
Risk exists everywhere, which is why learning how to mitigate it is important
Have you ever seen a German playground? They’re infamous on the internet for appearing dangerous in an age of “safe” play spaces.
Unlike most playgrounds we know of today, which are padded, carpeted, and lack sharp corners, German playgrounds are industrial looking structures built on regular ground. They tower over their surroundings, sometimes reaching heights of over 32 feet! Many also feature spiderweb-like designs spun from long lengths of wobbly rope, along with long and winding covered slides.
My husband, Jared, and I have never been to Germany, but we both know in our hearts that our 4-year-old daughter, Cittie, would love this kind of playground.
Jared, who has severe hemophilia B, would be the first to cheer Cittie on as she navigated the so-called perilous playground.
As a dad with a bleeding disorder — who once was a kid with a bleeding disorder — he adheres to an unconventional parenting philosophy.
It’s OK for a child to bleed
Provided the injury isn’t severe or life-threatening, Jared sincerely believes that kids should be permitted to experience getting hurt while playing.
Falling, tripping, and grazing one’s knee are all normal experiences, especially among children who are just learning to move their bodies.
Only through experiencing accidents and understanding how they might happen can a child learn to gauge their body and know their limitations. These two skills were of great benefit to Jared as a child growing up with hemophilia.
Today, he can enjoy sports and exercise because he did physical activities at a young age. The possibility of a bleed was always present, but his carers understood that the consequences of never moving would be much worse. Thanks to the people who encouraged him, Jared built up his confidence in athletics.
He learned to swim from his older brother, who is a competitive swimmer. Though he was occasionally injured from overexertion or poor form, his brother urged him to keep practicing after recovery. Before long, he was being invited to try out for his school’s varsity swim team.
Physical activities are important to Jared because they help him manage his hemophilia. His bleeds are fewer and less bothersome when he is active, because his muscles and joints are in good condition.
A child of danger
Even when our daughter was a toddler, she enjoyed moving her body and attempting physical tricks. I have a video of her as a 1-year-old having the time of her life while repeatedly jumping from a tall chair.
At the age of 2, she put on a pair of roller skates for the first time. Though hesitant to go on her own, she enjoyed being pulled along. Just before her fourth birthday, she got back into skating (thanks to TikTok skating videos) and learned to balance on quad skates in just two days!
She’s proven to be extremely agile. Bumps, scrapes, and scratches don’t faze her, either. If she trips, she gets back up and continues playing — almost as if nothing had happened.
Once, while playing with kids at a city park, she tripped while running and scraped her knee on the concrete. It bled quite a bit, but she didn’t want to leave. It turned out that she just didn’t want to say goodbye to her playmates.
Much like her dad, who is unfazed by his own bleeds and injuries, she is growing up to be resilient. It’s a quality I genuinely admire.
Managing risk builds resilience
German playgrounds are deliberately designed to be “dangerous” to teach children to manage risk.
The underpinning philosophy? Risk is everywhere and cannot be completely avoided, but one can learn to lessen its impact.
This has come to be one of Jared’s guiding principles in life. It has allowed him to pursue athletics and strengthen his body, even with hemophilia.
It’s understandable that many parents would think twice about letting their child get hurt while playing. We parents are wired to be protective of our children. We feel a sense of responsibility for our kids and feel obligated to ensure that they are always in good health.
But for children to have good health and strong bodies in the long run, we shouldn’t deprive them of the opportunity to build their physicality and learn to do so safely on their own.
Exposing children to controlled risk helps them build self-confidence, and that helps them stay safe while navigating the world.
Note: Hemophilia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Hemophilia News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to hemophilia.