Friday, March 28, 2014

Reflecting on Risk: Part 4

Finishing up my reflections on risk today. To read my earlier thoughts, click here, here, and here. To read Hanna Rosin's article, "The Overprotected Kid," click here.


My point is this: there is no truly safe place in this world. Risk is the name of the game when it comes to life. We have to decide what’s best and healthiest for our kids, knowing the risk that’s out there.

And what’s best and healthiest for our kids is a small dose of risk, doled out in appropriate amounts at appropriate times.

One day it may be walking to school. The next it might be allowing them to sleep over at a friend’s house. Then we move on to handing them the car keys. And sending them to college.

The risks start small, but get bigger and bigger as our kids grow and learn and mature. That’s how it’s supposed to work in order for our kids to become productive citizens.

(Little nod to a family joke here.)

But what if it doesn’t work out? What if we let our kids take risks and they backfire—our kids get hurt, or worse? I’ve lived most of my life with the deep understanding that risk sometimes doesn’t work in our favor (I guess that’s why it’s called risk).

Many of you know that when I was a girl, my younger brother drowned in a tragic accident at summer camp. Had my parents known what would happen on that day would they have sent him? No. Of course not. But could they have known with 100% certainty that an accident would not occur? Again, no.

Sadly, it did.

Many years later it was time to put my own firstborn, at age 11, on a bus to head six hours north to summer camp for two weeks. Did I know the risk? Yes, I did. I felt it in my bones. It was one of the hardest days of my life.

So why did my husband and I decide to send her?

Because we both agreed that a life without risk is a life without trust. In other words, God was asking me to trust Him with the life of my child, and we trusted Him to take better care of her than we could. No matter what.

We still do.

I also believe that a life without risk is a life without growth. The day my daughter walked to school by herself was probably a day in which she stood a little taller, believed in herself a little more.

Does that mean that I deliberately put my daughters in harm’s way or that I’m advocating for you to do such a thing? Absolutely not. I assess risk, just like anyone would—I think about the cost every day—but in so doing I have to accept that often my fears are not justified. And if I’m acting on unjustifiable fears, I’m definitely not doing what’s best and healthiest for my child.

My oldest, that little pipsqueek who merrily walked off to school by herself in first grade, is graduating from college this May. She’s making plans, talking about the future, looking ahead.

Do I have fears for her? Of course I do, but I refuse to let those fears hold her back in any way from doing what she wants to do. Because my fears are not justified.

There is so much about this world that I do not know, that I cannot know. So what I must do is hold on to what I do know.

And in the end, here’s what I do know:
  • -       Jesus loves my children so much more than I do. (John 3:16)
  • -       He sees their every move. (Psalm 121:3-4)
  • -       God has a plan for the lives of my children, and it is good. (Jeremiah 29:11)
  • -       He directs their steps. (Psalm 37:23)
  • -       He knows what their future holds (Psalm 31:15). I do not.

My job, I believe, is to trust God completely with my children and to allow them to grow in their trust of God, too, by letting them take appropriate risks at the appropriate times.

Life’s risky, that’s all there is to it. There is so much that is out of our control and that was never meant to be IN our control. But I believe with all my heart that God’s got this. Our kids are safest when placed in His care and when walking in His will.


  1. Shelly, thank you for being so faithful and so brave to share your story with us here.

    Now. Will you please, please come to my house and hold my hand and show me how to raise my daughters?

    No. Really.

  2. Oh Mary, I love you. Thank you for saying that. You can do this! God has made you just the right mom for your girls. (And they're beautiful, by the way!)

  3. How did we know that bright, sunny morning when we said goodbye to Chris that God had other plans for his life? That day changed the lives of our family, too. Thanks for always remembering him so sweetly.

  4. all good reminders! I'm trying to trust more on this Lenten journey and your wisdom helps.