Asher: Mom! Isaac just jumped off the deck, but he’s not hurt!
Mom: [Open mouth stare]
Isaac: [enters through the garage door]
Mom: Isaac Benjamin, come here.
Isaac: [trying (not too hard) to hide a smile.] What?
Mom: Did you just jump off of the deck?
Mom: On purpose? Or did you fall off?
Isaac: On purpose, but I slid down the rail and hanged from the deck and then dropped.
Mom: Was that a wise decision?
Isaac: Yes! It was awesome!
I was speechless, so I just laughed at him and told him we were calling his father (because that’s what you call your dear husband when his kid does something stupid). Randall all but congratulated him, but admitted this was not a conversation to have over the phone.
Randall and I talked. He wants to raise kids that are not afraid to be adventurous. I want to raise kids that don’t know the ER nurses by name. But again, we’re at this tension between safety and adventure.
We decided that we should commend Isaac for taking a risk, but remind him to always consider the consequences when he decides to endanger himself… We told him that we were proud of him for assessing the situation and hanging from the deck before he let go the remaining 2-3 feet. We reminded him that when you choose to jump from the deck, you risk breaking a bone which takes a long time to heal, and even when you decide to hang off the deck, you risk getting splinters. We told him to always consider all the repercussions before he acts on a chance.
I want my kids to know that I love them and would rather them always be safe, but I also think there is an important life lesson that comes when your kids are able to make their own mistakes. It lets them know that parents know best, but also respect you enough to let you decide for yourself.
Please be assured that I know a seven year old is not old enough to decide most things for himself. But when the possibility is a skinned knee or splinter, I think it’s worth a shot for an adventure. I want Isaac to always be able to talk to me about the actions he’s considering and the risks he’s taking and even the mistakes he’s made. This was our first test to see how we’d react.
The last rule we gave him was to keep it a secret. We don’t want all the neighborhood kids coming over and jumping off our deck. If your kids come over to play, we will not allow them to participate in risky behavior and we asked Isaac not to tell anyone about the risks he’s taking.
Fifteen minutes later, of course, Isaac was pretending to tightrope walk across the top of our 10 foot tall swing set in front of the neighbor kids…
Philippe Petit had absolutely NO FEAR of heights. This is not the kind of kid I want to raise. Yes, I want my son to notice beauty and to have adventures, no I don’t want him to participate in needless acts of danger. There is a place for healthy fear!
But I also don’t want fear to stop my kids from living an adventurous life. Asher is already wise enough to learn from others’ mistakes, but he doesn’t want to take his training wheels off because he’s seen the kind of scrapes you get when you fall off your bike…
So how do we as parents walk the tightrope between safety, adventure, and fearlessness?
For me, I’m going to take it one day at a time. When Isaac decides to try to jump off of the roof, I’m going to draw the line and hold my ground! I’m going to keep praying for my boys. I have never been a worrier, never like I am when I worry about my boys. But worrying doesn’t help anything. I will continue to pray each night for their health and safety. But just like allowing kids to be exposed to germs strengthens their immune system, I’m going to allow my kids to be exposed to risks to strengthen their character. I pray for protection from harm and protection for their innocence.
I sincerely question what I would do if something happened to one of my boys. Because things do happen, even when our kids aren’t being daring. Will I regret this philosophy some day? Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t say. But for now, I’m going to give my children limits. I’m going to give them freedoms as well. And I’m going to give them to God and do the best I can as a parent.
God, help me to make wise decisions when it comes to parenting my kids. For my kids, I pray the blessing from Numbers 6:24-26:
‘May the Lord bless you
and protect you, Isaac and Asher.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace.’