Let me take a moment to admit I had no part in the filming or sharing of this video. I found it on Facebook and fell in love with it, and all film credit goes to BFirst.in and not me. That said, this is what I wanted to share with all of you today.
When I watch this baby elephant flopping over sideways in near-defeat before its mother helps him up, I think of my own kids. It would have been easy for the mother elephant to hoist her little one out of the mud from the start, and we can see in the video that she watches the baby struggle for a good while before actually offering any assistance. But raising a child means recognizing that someday said child will be a grown, fully-functioning, autonomous person. And no autonomous person can live their life well if they’ve never struggled through a problem, figured it out one way or another, and come out on the other side with the confidence and wisdom they gained from the whole grueling process.
A mother’s work is all about timing. Whether it’s balancing a schedule around soccer practice, tutoring and fifty other social/academic obligations, figuring out how long meal prep will take, or knowing when to let her child wrestle and problem-solve on their own, timing is always crucial. But the key to giving a child enough space for some healthy flailing is not standing too far off.
This mother elephant lets her baby try, and try, and try, and when nothing works she literally steps into the hole her child has slipped into. She knows how to help and sees the answer right away, being older, bigger and stronger than the baby. But she also knows her child needs to learn how to try, because no kid ever figured out how to succeed without learning how to try first.
So here’s to motherhood, with all it’s challenges and rewards and painful responsibilities, like knowing when your child needs to fail and knowing when they can learn a thing or two from you. May this little elephant video remind you what learning and success and love look like, and if it doesn’t do that, at least it’ll make you smile.