Parenting Risk

And while we are talking about “parenting risks” (from my articles Failure as an Option and Free Range Parenting) let me tell you a little story about letting your child take a BIG risk that, in hindsight, makes my parents my heroes.

When I graduated from college I had a smooth and easy path laid before me.  I had a job offer, I had a car, and I had a house to live in.  All provided for me by my parents.  They had offered me a job within the farming corporation.  They had rental houses they offered to me as my residence.  They had many, many trucks own by the farm for me to drive.

And I looked around me and thought, “Is this it? This is the best I can do? Do they think I can’t get a job by myself?”  (That is absolutely not what they thought, but this is my 22-year-old self talking.)  I suddenly saw the entirety of my life right before my eyes.  And I got scared.

I figured I had two other options. (A) I could move to Colorado and live with Shaun and continue the many adventures of Thelma and Louise (kind of risky considering that would put us dangerously close to the Grand Canyon), or (B) I could move to California, live off my savings while I found a job, and see about this guy I met at a party a little over a year ago. (Spoiler alert: He worked out.)

I was doing all this soul-searching in December, and so I was inspired to look up the average snowfall of each region in December (12 inches in Denver vs 0 inches in Berkeley).  Hmmmmm…. California it is!  I mailed 5 boxes of my stuff to this guy’s house, asked him to look for a room in an apartment for me, and bought a one-way ticket to San Francisco with the quarter collection I’d been saving since I was 12.

And what did my parents say? My mother’s response started with “Over my dead body,” and went downhill from there. My dad got really quiet and went outside to “check the cattle.” After a week or so Dad offered to drive me to the airport and Mom told me I could always come home.

This was a huge risk.  Probably a larger risk for them than for me.  I was being incredibly naive, but I did know that if it didn’t work out I had a solid Plan B.  It turned out more perfectly than I could have hoped for in the end, but I can only imagine how many rosaries my Mom wore out and how many sleepless hours I gave Dad.

And that is why letting your child take risks now is so important. If my parents hadn’t allowed me to learn to drive when I was 9, or left me home alone after school while I was in 3rd grade, or even make my own curfew decisions in high school I would never have had the confidence in myself to take this kind of a risk. I would never have made some awesome life-long friends in the Department of Economics, married Mark, and had our two children.

I also would have never had the guts to travel to Paris with my mom – a trip that changed our relationship forever – or gone off on this adventure to Switzerland. Taking these risks, failing, and succeeding have made me the person I am today.

Thanks, Mom and Dad.

The Rheinbrucke. A beautiful bridge over the Rhein River.  One of my favorite pictures of my parents.
The Rheinbrucke. A beautiful bridge over the Rhein River. One of my favorite pictures of my parents.

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