Monday, 15 October 2012

Mothering Risk Takers

As I watched the record breaking skydive yesterday, it wasn't Felix Baumgartner's leap of faith I was captivated by. It was his mother.

A mother of a risk taker myself, I was utterly entranced by this brave woman, watching her son jump from space to earth. How did she reach that point? How did she manage to even watch? Most of the time, when my small risk taker is somewhere I'd rather he wasn't, I try to turn my back so I can't see. Although usually I find myself peering at him out of the corner of my eye, to make sure he is safe. I felt huge admiration for this mother who allowed her son to follow his dreams without standing in his way despite, I'm sure, a huge maternal protective instinct to keep him safe.

My Max, now 8, had the 'best day of his life' in the summer jumping 60ft from cliffs into the sea. He now wants to be a skydiver and beat Baumgartner's record. How does a mother go from allowing small risks to setting them free to take enormous ones? And why should we?

We start small. We start with watching our toddlers climbing onto furniture. We take them to parks with climbing frames. We let them climb trees (although Max goes so high that sometimes his head pokes out of the top - those are the back turning moments). We let them skid on icy puddles. We allow them to take risks within our safe grasp. And we let them grow in confidence. We allow them to make mistakes and, gasp in horror, to let them fall. We teach them to understand the extent of the risks they are taking. We teach them to have confidence in themselves.

If we allow our children to take these small risks, when they are older they will have the confidence to take bigger risks, and I'm not just thinking about skydiving. We want to encourage a generation of creative minds, of politically radical leadership, of adults who will tread paths none have walked before. If we want our chidren to grow up as trailblazers and those who stand up for injustices, we must teach them to take risks. If we see entrepeneurial spirit in our children, we must teach them to take risks. If we want our children to have jobs, families and to work hard, we must teach them to take risks. If those of us who are Christian parents want to see our children growing God's Kingdom, we must teach them to take risks.

Our children are growing up in a generation of placid non-risk takers who take everything put in front of them but don't reach out to grab hold of what life could be. It's up to us to change this. So, even though it can feel almost impossible, we must let our children take those risks and applaud them. There is no face more proud than a parent who has watched their child succeed. Felix Baumgartner's mother has that face this morning. Will it be your face tomorrow?

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