Raising risk-taking children
In both the United States and Canada, the first Monday in September is Labor Day and represents the unofficial end of Summer. Ordinarily, the weekend would offer one last opportunity to enjoy time in the great outdoors in the company of family and friends and to reminisce about the Summer that was.
Circumstances this year did not allow me to return to my home country of Canada, but that didn’t stop me from reflecting on previous summers this past weekend. In doing so, one particular story came to mind…
Since the time my daughter, Haylee was very young, I’ve shared my love of sailing with her. She would often accompany me pleasure sailing in our Sunfish or in races on her grandfather’s Mirage 25. She had always enjoyed the experiences and for many years she had essentially been along for the ride, but watching and learning all along.
That all changed when she was ten years old. One day, I returned to shore after an hour of windsurfing and was greeted by Haylee. She announced it was time. She wanted to windsurf.
Without giving it much thought, I immediately came up with a number of reasons why I felt she wasn’t ready, including the fact that she’d never sailed before on her own, couldn’t read the wind, and wasn’t physically strong enough to hold the sail. I did so as an overprotective father that didn’t want to see her fail.
To her credit, Haylee wouldn’t take no for an answer. So, after demonstrating a few elementary techniques, I put her on the water, not fully sure of what to expect. Initially, she struggled with her balance and had trouble lifting the sail. I encouraged her. She fell in the water. I encouraged her again. Through it all, she remained determined and before you know it, she had lifted the sail from the water and was windsurfing! Haylee couldn’t have been prouder, nor could I.
I learned an important lesson that day. I realized that Haylee didn’t want what I thought she did. She actually wanted the struggle and she wanted the fight because she wanted the best feeling of all. She wanted the feeling you get when you overcome a challenge that does everything it can to beat you and you beat it!
There may be a lesson for all of us here. As much as we want to protect our children, we should also encourage them to challenge themselves so that they may realize their full potential.
Rather than always being comfortable, they need to be provided with opportunities, academic, athletic or otherwise, in which they are comfortably uncomfortable and that allow them to push themselves to even greater heights.
In doing so, we are encouraging them to be risk-takers who are resourceful and resilient, who at times may fail, so that ultimately, they will succeed. It is through this process that self-discovery occurs and the magic happens.
Barra Upper School Principal