I’ve had many conversations over the years (some quite recently, hence this blog) with parents whose major concern in life was with keeping their children (or child) safe. It’s an issue that is confronting every parent daily and that can transform simple decisions into debilitating quandaries.
As a parent of three, I am no idle spectator in this emotional arena.
These conversations, along with my own personal soul searching, have lead me to conclude and to admit that complete safety is impossible and that even relative safety is more of an act of trust than of an assurance of well being.
This is no easy thing to admit. And this is what leads so many of us to become stuck in fear and anxiety.
Life is simply a risky enterprise. That’s the truth of the matter.
Even if we had unlimited financial resources, the attempt on our part to eliminate all possible opportunities for injury or illness to our children would, in and of itself, be injurious and harmful to their natural and healthy development. Being overly protective does as much damage as does being reckless or negligent.
It is glaringly apparent from our own childhood experiences that we, as human beings, were designed to bump, bruise, bounce and break ourselves quite a bit. And we survived, grew and learned from those experiences…just as our children will. They deserve the chances to fall, to scrape, to cry and to get up and get at it again.
Life in a bubble, life without risks, is like a Nascar race run entirely under the yellow caution flag…staying in line…going in circles…not really a race…not really a life….
Now I know that Nascar, or any sport for that matter, cannot be a perfect analogy, but our craving for ‘safety’ is in contradiction to and defies our own experience; namely, that we feel most alive when the outcome is uncertain, when we have to take a chance, when we push ourselves beyond our comfort and convenience zones.
Sure, we will fail. Sure, we will fall. What we do then is what matters most.
The risks we take may be physical, emotional or intellectual, but we reveal ourselves to ourselves in those types of decision making moments when the outcome is far from certain. In those moments we are unthinkingly and profoundly aware of the raw possibilities that life presents us with.
I could or would no more wish to deprive my children of these experiences under the banner of keeping them safe than I could or would wish to undo my own missteps and batterings that I have experienced along my way.
It’s just life.