On opportunity and risk…

I’ve been in a lot of discussions recently online that center around fear… What could happen? What if we make the wrong choice? What if someone else does XYZ?

I get it. I’m the queen of “foreboding joy”. The queen. When Brené Brown writes about fearing people jumping out of the bushes suddenly, I laughed because I’ve thought that before. I’ve sworn something was going to catch on fire, or that the phone was ringing to tell me something terrible.

But what I’ve realized as a mom is that I cannot pass all those fears on to my kids. I cannot protect them from everything bad, nor would I want to. What life is it to be isolated at home, safe? What life is it, when everything is soft and sanitary?

I want my daughter to get dirty and to scuff up her knees. I want her to fall off swings, to make mistakes, to call out the wrong answer in front of the class. I want her to explore her world — to taste it, to touch and feel and breathe it. I want her to have friends who talk to her as a peer, rather than a pity project. I want her to ride roller coasters and scream her head off and discover the things she likes and dislikes on her own, with no predetermination by me.

I get that I am saying this from a position of privilege. My daughter and son are not medically fragile, which must bring a whole other layer of fear to the equation, where your fears are not nonsensical. They are firmly grounded in your experience and the warnings of professionals.

Even then, though, can we go too far towards protection and safety? I think about LM and his time at private day school. It was scary for us to imagine him going back to public school. His mental stability is incredibly fragile. When unstable, he is at great risk of severely hurting himself. Sending him back to public school felt so risky — what would happen? Would he end up on more meds? Hospitalized? Placed in residential?

It’s going well. Even if it didn’t, though, I think I would make the same decision again. He has opportunity now, and with opportunity comes risk, always. I can’t pretend to make that decision or know what shape it will look like for each family. There are so many ways to balance opportunity and risk. Every child, adult, and family must find their own way. The only thing I know for sure is that I cannot let my fears of risk prevent my kids from living the lives they want and need, daring and free. It’s hard to do, but so necessary.

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