Acceptable Risk

Risk is part of life. When making decisions, we weigh the risk against the potential reward. We all have different levels of comfort with risk and make our decisions according to our own comfort levels. Sometimes we determine that it will be good for us to go outside our natural comfort levels. Regardless, we know that risk is an unavoidable part of life.

I am still mulling over points from The Green Hour by Todd Christopher, including some comments he made concerning safety in the great outdoors. In considering the the perceived risks of exploring nature – which really aren’t so different from the risks of exploring the man-made landscape of playgrounds, streets and pools – Christopher asks:

How many parents would deny their children education for fear of the potential childhood maladies – head lice, chicken pox, the common cold – that might await them at school? How many would trade their children’s physical fitness for the reassurance that their kids never suffer a bump, bruise or sprain from playing youth sports? The benefits in each case, of course, outweigh the risks, and the same holds true for a child’s time spent exploring and discovering the natural world.

This brings back a still vivid memory – my infant daughter taking her early steps. She was eight months old. She had been a late crawler, literally beginning to crawl on hands and knees only a week before taking those first wobbly steps. For the first day or two of M.’s walking endeavor, I followed her around, ever ready to catch her should she fall. I quickly realized, though, that if I didn’t let her fall, she wouldn’t learn to walk. Yes, she did fall, and she did get some bumps and bruises in the process, but that’s okay. It was worth it. In the ensuing years, I have been faced with this reality again and again. As much as I’d like to protect my children from every danger and every hurt, that is not my job.

Are any of you questioning the truth of that statement? Or maybe questioning my sanity?

Of course, it is a parent’s job to protect her children, isn’t it? Well, yes.

But… ultimately it is a parent’s job to gradually prepare her children to live on their own. If children don’t have the opportunity for more and more independence and responsibility as they grow, how will they gain the skills to live on their own one day?

Christopher goes on:

Talk openly and in an age-appropriate manner with your children about safety and precaution. You’ll empower them to understand and assess risks and to make intelligent decisions to help minimize them.

Exactly. As hard as it can be for a parent to admit, let alone to practice, even kids need the chance to consider risks and make decisions.

You might need to remind me of that sometimes if you see me not simply protecting, but overprotecting my children. I continually seek the balance of providing the necessary protection and guidance while still allowing room for learning and growing. Like all areas of my life, it’s a work in progress.

How are you with risk? Are you more or less comfortable with risk when it comes to your loved ones, especially children?


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