Life is Risk

Mrs. Crucis had lunch with her cousin today. That allowed me to escape and spend some time at one of my favorite greasy spoons. While I was eating, one of the waitresses came over to talk a bit.

I’ll call her Tanya. Tanya isn’t the brightest bulb on the string. She dropped out of high school “because it was too hard.” She’s married and has two kids. One is her 11 year-old son, Sonny. (You can see I’m very original making up names.)

Tanya sat down across from me and said, “I’m mad!” It seems her son and some friends had built a bicycle track completed with jumps and potholes in a vacant lot. They were racing. Sonny jumped a ridge and on landing, his front wheel dug in. Sonny’s face met handle bars. His nose was broken and the bone just below his nose containing his front upper teeth was broken and caved in. Sonny will require surgery for a complete recovery.

Tanya wasn’t mad at Sonny. Nor was she mad at his friends for building the track. She wasn’t mad at the bicycle manufacturer. No, she was mad at the bicycle helmet manufacturer. She felt they should have made the helmet with a full-face shield.

She continued in this mode a bit while I finished lunch. I don’t like being in these positions. I’m a private person. I like eating lunch alone with a book for company. But Tanya wanted to talk and I’m a patient listener. I finally had enough. I asked her, “Do you think Sonny will be bicycle jumping again?”

“No,” she replied, “he doesn’t want to race anymore.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Well, he doesn’t want to get hurt again,” she said.

I was hesitant to ask my next question, but sometimes I just have an urge.” “Tanya,” I said. “If he did have a full-face shield on his helmet and hadn’t gotten hurt or only bruised, would he have continued to bike-jump? Maybe getting hurt worse the next time?”

She thought on that for a bit and finally said, “Yeah, he would.”

“He learned a lesson, didn’t he?”

“Yeah.”

“Consider this. Yes, it was painful and he’ll have to have surgery to fix everything. It’ll be expensive. But, he’ll know better next time.”

“Yeah.”

“So, isn’t it better that he learns that lesson now rather than sometime later—maybe in more dangerous circumstances? Maybe when driving a car?”

“But he’s my baby!”

At this point she was almost at tears. We continued talking for awhile longer. I explained that she couldn’t protect her kids every moment of the day. Growing up means learning skills, learning how to live, and learning what is dangerous. If she protects him too much, he’ll never learn what is dangerous and what isn’t.

I think she understood some of that. Life is not without risk nor consequences. Freedom is freedom to learn. Freedom is also the ability to grow and plan, to risk and if necessary, to suffer the consequences. Risk is also the means to succeed because without risk, success will never occur.

Tanya is a good parent. Like all parents, she doesn’t want her children to come to harm. Life, isn’t, unfortunately, without risk and the potential for harm. Risk can be good and the process of growing into maturity is learning the ability to weigh risk. Weigh the effort, the potential rewards, weigh the cost and the possible loss and consequences.

I fear that the forces behind the Nanny State have forgotten these lessons—if they ever knew them at all.

4 thoughts on “Life is Risk

  1. What you say is very true. Can't and shouldn't protect them from everything out there. A little hurt goes a long way when it comes to learning.
    For the life of me though, I honestly don't understand the mentality of being mad at the helmet manufacturer. ???

  2. Frankly, I didn't understand why she was mad at the helmet manufacturer either. She isn't super-protective as I've seen many parents about their kids.

    Just think. Twenty or so years ago kids and adults didn't wear helmet while riding. We had learned, frequently the hard way, what was dangerous and the risks of being foolhardy. All that is lost now. A concept of personal responsibility has been subverted to shifting fault to someone else—anyone and then to sue them for damages. Usually, if you look at the situation, the suit is to divert attention from parental neglect which in turn forces others to perform that function.

    It's a vicious circle. I've never subscribed to it.

  3. I completely agree..our 22 yr old son has given us a run for our money and has been all about learning by hard knocks! He has grow up but unfortunately some still have to try some things and run in to brick walls…it's just with less frequency now! Great post.

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