Why do we react so differently

Why Do We React So Differently?

Posted on Posted in Parenthood

Why do we react so differently

My two year old son gave us a bit of a fright today by deciding to hurtle himself down the full flight of stairs backwards before bouncing off the hall wall at the bottom.  The interesting thing for me was the different reactions to the incident by the four members of this household.

He had been overly energetic all day, born slightly out of boredom and slightly out of fighting tiredness due to an exceptionally early nap, but where he would normally skip from one part of the house to another, today he dropped his head and ran as if he was Usain Bolt.  I had just put dinner on and was in the kitchen getting everything ready and my wife was upstairs with our daughter.  Now our son has not needed to be watched climbing the stairs for some time and quite often he does a better job of it than me, but on this occasion he attacked those stairs like he was hitting the travelator on an old episode of Gladiators.  It seems that when he got to almost the top he missed a step and bounced backwards down the stairs then came to a sudden halt as he bounced off the wall at the bottom.

I heard the banging and knew instantly that something bad had happened and I had closed the 5m gap to where he lay in about half a nano-second, my son was screaming bloody murder, but it wasn’t his ‘I’m in severe pain’ cry, more of a ‘holy shit that scared me’ cry.  His mum came thundering down the stairs screaming louder and more hysterically than him and our daughter was stood at the top of the stairs crying her eyes out because her mum had scared her and she was worried for her brother.  None of this was helping him so I took him into the living room and told his mum and sister to stay where they were until they had calmed themselves down.  I did a full head to toe check and everything seemed to be ok apart from a small bruise appearing on his forehead.  I checked his pupils and he was really responsive so there didn’t seem to be any concussion.  After he stopped crying he gave me a cuddle and was desperate to show me what happened, by this time his mum and sister had got a grip of themselves and were hugging him too.

What is it that’s in us that dictates how we respond to threats to our children?  His mother forgot about all rationale and just became hysterical at the thought something bad had happened to her son.  All logic had gone out of the window because of her overwhelming love for him creating such a devastating sense of hurt at his potential injury.  His sister had such empathy for her brother being in pain that it made her simulate the effects as if she were in pain herself.  This feeling of empathy amazes me and there are fantastic improvements in our understanding of childhood development, I’m rubbish at explaining so watch this video for a complete explanation.  It is over 10 minutes long, but bear with it because it is fascinating and well worth it.

I’m a little perplexed by reaction though, it was almost cold and heartless but ruthlessly efficient and systematic in order to ensure his care.  I feel that my instinct should have been to react like his mother, but instead I went in to ‘professional’ mode and put all feelings aside until I knew he was alright, then my body went into a little mini shock, hands trembling legs like jelly.  The interesting thing was that this was not a conscious choice, but an automatic one.  I do not for one instance believe that this is because I am a soldier and have been trained to take a ‘condor moment’, step back assess the situation then decide the best way forward, this was deeper than that.  But what was it that made me and his mother react so differently?

On a completely separate note, why is it that I can show my son how to operate an iPod once, including unlocking it with a pass code and he suddenly becomes an expert, but having just fallen down the stairs he decides to almost do the same thing all over again by jumping down the stairs rather than walking?!!

Use Code IAMEPIC For 30% Off Mini-Epic Personalised Video Invitations

3 thoughts on “Why Do We React So Differently?

  1. This is great! It’s true. We all react so differently! I remember the first time Sebastien stopped breathing. I had him in my arms whilst speaking to the 999 operator, and I was so calm that they asked if I was a medical professional. When the paramedics arrived I was still as cool as a cucumber (and for the subsequent 4 hours spent whilst He was “worked on” (he started breathing again begfore the paramedics arrived but was still cyanosed with sternal and tracheal recessions and a HR way above 200) hubby of course was away but the teen came downstairs (woken by the ambulance) and went in to instant hysteria screaming panicking and shouting at the paramedics to “Do something” (they were) I almost went in to a trance like calm, and have continued to be the calm one whenever our children are hurt (not that it happens often- but S has stopped breathing 3 times since this first incident) hubby is also calm but visibly distressed rather than stoic, especially for the smaller incidents like when S sliced his foot open running around the garden *oh my god there’s SO much bloood*

    It’s funny that we’re almost complete opposites in day to day. I’m the hot headed shouty one, and he’s the calm one, yet in an emergency I definitely take control.

    1. I find your last point interesting, calm by day but when tragedy strikes, not so much. I suppose this is why we’re tested to the point of disaster just so we can see the true character. George swallowed a pencil topper and choked to the point he turned blue. I wasn’t there, but Vikki’s reaction was to puck him up by the ankle and run into the street screaming for help with him dangling upside down beside her. It worked though, the topper fell out and he was ok, but definitely not the approach I would have taken.

      1. Oh wow. I can imagine she must have been terrified. It’s also not the way I would have handled it, but thankfully it worked in the moment. I’m not sure where the cool head comes from when things go wrong, possibly from having a diabetic father, and also being first on the scene to a horrific car crash has taught me that you act first, and fall apart later if needs be! I know that Michael really struggles with blood especially if it’s from me or the kids (great when you’re a soldier!) however… in a freak accident a few years back he managed to sever the artery in my wrist! (We were play fighting and I landed on a glass!) the amount of blood that needed to be cleaned was unreal. (It really does spurt EVERYWHERE! ) so that maybe why…

I'd love to hear your thoughts, let me know what you think