Risk

Hi. Remember me?

I’m the opinionated fella that seems to have an opinion about everything, but forgets to take notes on the ideas that I have opinions on and want to write about.

Since I was seized by one such topic while I have the iPad in my hand, I want to write on it. That topic is risk. Or, more accurately, protecting your kids from it.  I understand the notion, right? If I can exercise just a little bit more due diligence, and keep my girls safe, I should certainly do so, right?

Debatable.

Are we really doing them any favors by protecting them from all forms of risk? Or would we be better served by letting them fall sometimes? Then, we learn that falling happens, and how to get back up. These discussions with some of our close friends and family who are new parents. Facebook is full of fascinating things. Some of it, even good advice! But, it does t stand out as to which is which. Nobody wants to see their child hurt themselves. It really doesn’t matter if it’s by falling down, at the hands of a friend that’s less than kind, or a substance abuse problem. But, how do you learn about natural consequences, if you’re barred from making decisions that lead to them? The short answer is, you don’t. You learn to believe that someone else will save you from the repercussions of your actions.

And really, what are we trying to protect them from?

Is it that we’re trying to protect them from pain? Are we trying to protect them from bad decisions? Are we simply projecting our own fears upon them? Or, perhaps we’re trying to save our own heartache. I suspect mileage varies, but one thing that I’m sure of, is that it’s going to be difficult to find a person whose healthy confidence in themselves, if they have never been permitted to make decisions and not have them work out to force them to recover. Passing our fears on to our children does them no favors.

But, you know? Something that I’m certain of, is that it would be difficult to find joy in a life completely devoid of sorrow. The thrill of achieving an unexpected success would be severely degraded if there was no cognizance of what it is to fail. What kind of life would it be, to have such a numb existence? Failure is an integral part of growth. As a child, as a teenager, and as an adult. I’ve seen people and corporations become completely paralyzed by the fear of making a mistake, or failing. And while I’ll stop shy of encouraging them to fail, I’ll encourage them to try, because it’ll effectively be the same thing sometimes. And that failure is good, as long as you learn and grow from it.

Some people, I suppose, would rather have a boring, steady existence. I’m not one of those people. I’ll take the pain, and the joy that I then become cognizant of.

Teaching empathy and gratitude?

Today, I knew what I wanted to write about. What I wasn’t prepared for, was how difficult it has been for me to start. My personal thought is that the two are very closely related. In my case, I’m pretty sure that I understood empathy before gratitude. I was raised by hard working parents. Growing up, I can only remember a single vacation longer than a weekend. It just wasn’t in the cards, I suspect. Dad had a good job, but would find himself laid off by the factory, and find himself in a position where he had to take what jobs he could to provide for his mealy-mouth kids. For her part, Mom pinched the pennies as tightly as she could. To this day, I’m not much of a fan of turkey. This is because Mom would make the biggest bird she could find for Thanksgiving. I swear to you, the four of us would eat that bird until Christmas. Any idea what we had for Christmas dinner? I’ll give you a hint. It fed us until damn near February.

As a result, I feel for the ever-growing numbers of people who struggle. Who are trying to deal with the last thirty years of inflation with wages that haven’t kept pace. It’s always been easy for me to consider walking in their shoes. That said, it got a lot easier when we moved to Nowhere, OH. I’m pretty certain that a not-insignificant portion of town is “food insecure“, where they don’t know if they’ll have enough to eat today. I’m certain that there were plenty of food insecure people where we were in the first place, but I don’t believe it was as conspicuous. So, when we got here, my gratitude for all that I’ve had, whether I had to work for it or not, became much greater.

Important ideals, in my estimation.

More challenging, is how to pass that on to my girls. At what point do they even become capable of empathy? Until they become capable of empathy, is it even possible to teach them about gratitude? If they can’t consider how someone doesn’t have enough, how would they feel anything but their own disappointment at not getting a bigger ice cream dish, or a root beer float? We work to make sure that they understand that some of their classmates may not have enough. Last Christmas, I took them out to participate in the secret Santa phenomenon, paying off layaways at the local-ish KMart. One for each of the girls. I wanted to demonstrate that doing things for others is benefit enough, even when you don’t get anything more out of it.

What more can be done to help instill these values that, in my estimation, are suffering greatly in our society today? I’d love to hear from you in the comments. As a society, we’ve become so overly individualistic that I’m afraid that we’re going lose the ability to empathize. And if we can no longer empathize, I fear for our future.