In the past month, I have taken a trip on an airplane and I’ve also jumped out of one. Oddly enough, I was more scared to board my domestic flight than I was when being pushed out of a Cessna. Maybe it had something to do with the amount of time I spent on one plane verses the other. Or maybe the fact that I had a parachute attached to me on the small plane made me feel safer than the “cushion as a floatation device” safety feature on a regular aircraft. But my fear of flying verses my excitement for jumping made me think about what I have been teaching my children about practicality and risk.
When I was on the domestic flight, I had two and half hours to think about all of the things that could go wrong. Just for the record, I am typically not afraid of flying. However, this time, I couldn’t stop thinking about whether or not I have properly prepared my children for life without me. While in the air, I cursed myself for not having supplemental life insurance for my family in case the plane goes down. I wondered if I have given my seven and ten year old little girls too much support. Is too much support even a thing? Probably not when it pertains to young children, but I think there is a fine line between being an enabler and being supportive. In other words, have I been doing too many things for them, or have I been giving them more useful hands-on experiences? Have I given them enough life skills to navigate the world without me? Of course, when your kids are seven and ten, that answer will always be no. So, of course, I immediately began going through everything I have taught them to do for themselves-making breakfast, brushing their teeth, making their beds, using their manners, making kick-ass chocolate chip cookies. The list was long, so it made me feel better. But then I started thinking of all the things that I still haven’t taught them to do on their own like balancing a check book, making plans (in pencil) to achieve their goals and figuring out how to get through new toy packaging without scissors. My domestic flight turned into a parenting 101 class in my head. Flying made me think practically (albeit a bit extreme based on the current age of my kids) about what I needed to do to ensure that I give my girls the lessons that will help them thrive in the real world.
A few weeks later, I decided to plunge out of an airplane. Although my chances of dying were probably much higher when I decided to try skydiving, I didn’t have any of the concerns I had when I was flying a few weeks prior on JetBlue. My stomach was filled with butterflies, but not the nervous kind. I was truly excited. I took in the view as we flew over Florida and was truly happy. Stepping out on the ledge of the plane didn’t frighten me, nor did the countdown to jump time. There was no hesitation at all and there were no thoughts about risks, or what would happen to my kids if I didn’t make it. I just threw my body out the door, and I jumped.
A little while after I landed, I thought about my girls, and how I wished they were there to see me. I think there is a benefit to letting your child watch you do something out of the ordinary. If a child only gets to see a parent do their day to day jobs-making meals, cleaning the house, going to work, how will they ever learn that taking a leap of faith may be the best decision of their lives? How will they learn that sometimes, taking a risk may outweigh the safer bet? I’ve found that in my life so far, it has always been the jumping, not the flying, that has reaped the greatest rewards.
So, to my children, I encourage you to always fly, but every once in a while, I hope you find the courage to jump.