When I was young my Mom, grandmother, older brother, and sister drove our station wagon from southern California to Guatemala. Yes, the country of Guatemala, the one below Mexico. Every time I tell people we did that, they look at me as if my family was crazy. Over thirty years ago we left Dad at home and took off to the country of my Mom and Grandmother’s origin. My mother and brother alternated driving. I was in the far back on my knees so I could face forward on the backward facing back seat.
Along the way, we stayed with relatives I never knew I had, or at hotels. I have no idea what my parents were thinking as they talked about this trip. Did they think this was perfectly safe? Did my dad worry about us, driving all that distance with no man older than a teenager? If I were to consider driving to Guatemala, the first thing I would think of would be getting killed somewhere along the way. Maybe my Dad was trying to get rid of us?
I can think of all kinds of things my siblings and I did as kids, like riding our bicycles off the roof into the pool, that really were not safe and probably weren’t smart, but we did them.
Guess what happened to us when we did these “not very wise” things? Some of us got hurt! My friend Jimmy lost a piece of his chin in an errant bicycle jumping accident; I broke my hand once or twice; my buddy Charlie broke his leg.
And when I tell my children these stories, they look at me as if I’m crazy! What would possess us to do all these crazy things?
I don’t think we took those risks because we loved injury, or because out doing each other was our motivation. I think we did it because we had a stronger desire to push ourselves. To see what our limits were. Running up hills, going farther away from our home, being the first to reach heights not reached before, seemed part of our DNA.
I worry about my children. We have safety sealed our kids almost to the point that they are in danger of nothing. And with no danger of anything ever happening to them, how will they ever accomplish anything? No risk, no reward.
I don’t want my kids to get hurt, nor do I want to put them in harm’s way just so they’ll learn some cruel lesson, but how do I teach them to push themselves? How can I explain that possible danger is only one factor we must weigh when making a decision?
Families packed up a wagon and joined a wagon train: they left the safety of their homes knowing that many didn’t make it. Missionaries have left the comfort of home, family, and friends to go half way around the world to tell others about God with full knowledge of the many risks.
Look, I want the best for my children, but I also want them to challenge themselves, to reach farther than they think they can reach. I know I struggle with the desire to protect them from everything, but if they never risk, they will probably never gain.