Tuesday, July 26, 2011
To Risk-Taking Girls Everywhere
If all the other kids were jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?
I did. And I took my seven year old with me.
Yesterday we visited a friend and her sons in Huntington Harbor for kayaking and swimming. It's a neighborhood custom to jump off a bridge that crosses over the bay into the water, one that my friend Jenni and her oldest son Joshua have done in previous summers: Joshua gleefully, Jenni, with fear and trembling. Yesterday, we spent an hour or so at the beach without seeing a single person take the plunge.
But then, a group of neighborhood kids showed up, age range about nine to 16, and one by one started plummeting off the side. Knowing Sophia to be a daredevil and loving this about her, I turned to her and said, "Wanna do it?" Of course she did. Until one minute later, when she turned to me, eyes as big as golf balls and said, "You know mom, I heard Levi say you're not supposed to jump off the bridge and they never do it when the police are around, so we better not do it either."
"Nah, it's fine. Mommy says it's fine, so it's fine." A few minutes later, shivering with both cold and nerves, holding the hand of a friendly 10 year girl on both sides, she leapt. A minute later, with a "woo hoo" and very little grace, I jumped in after her.
It's official. I'm a bad influence. The classic metaphor used to illustrate that you shouldn't just go along with the crowd, especially when they're doing something stupid or dangerous, came literally true in front of my eyes, and I failed the test. In my defense, I wasn't totally sure what we were doing was illegal; I'd only heard a five year old boy say so. And also, there was no real danger. Reasonable height, deep water, we can both swim. No problem. However, on our way home, I did happen to see the big sign that said "No jumping from bridge." Too late.
I hope I haven't launched my daughter down a course of rule breaking. But Sophia is at a stage where she's a little too worried about following the rules, too anxious to fall in line and please others, and too concerned about others falling in line as well. So the bridge jumping is good for her (am I convincing anyone?).
In all seriousness, one of my core values as a parent (and person) is that if there's an experience that scares you, but isn't actually going to cause you serious bodily harm or harm to someone else, you should do it. It's part of my "Mama Don't Raise No Sissies" program. There aren't enough females out there willing to take risks, but overcoming fears is what life is all about. This is my father's influence coming through; this is how he raised me and my brothers. I want my kids to ride the roller coaster. Jump off the high dive. They'll feel proud they did, and maybe be more willing to take risks in things that really matter: faith, relationships, learning, creative pursuits.
My friend Jenni gets this. She told me that last year when she jumped, it scared her to death, but she did it as a psychological exercise, to prove to herself that she could, and to show her boys she was willing to take risks. At that point in her life, God was calling her to make some major leaps of faith, and this became her physical metaphor. This is one of the reasons she and I are so close. To risk takers everywhere, we say, "You go, girls."