[A DAD’S POINT-OF-VIEW] Taking Risks: When, How, and If

We went on a family skiing trip recently and on my son’s first run of the season, he fell and broke his arm.  Thankfully, it was a clean hairline fracture and he should heal just fine.  It may take his ego a bit longer to recover, as he was trying to follow his girlfriend when he fell.

He recuperated and relaxed at the condo while the rest of our group continued to ski and enjoy the trip.  I resumed my regular skiing antics which include doing tricks that are mostly done by kids half my age or younger.

Lots of sports have risks attached to them. When, as a parent, should we limit our kid’s activities and when should we show restraint? I do enjoy pushing my limits on skis, as I do tricks in the terrain park on the half-pipe (see attached photo), jumps, boxes, as well as hard mogul and/or steep runs.  I’ve also gone heli-skiing where there is the omnipresent danger of avalanches.

In fact, the first time I went heli-skiing, back in the day before the Internet or personal computers existed, I was caught in an avalanche, broke a rib, and had to be flown out the next day.

Last season, I inexplicably fell in the half-pipe and woke up in a ski gurney with a patrol-person holding up fingers and asking me, “how many.”  I was knocked unconscious and, to this day, I still don’t remember exactly what happened. I dislocated my shoulder from landing literally upside down and I broke a couple bones in my shoulder, as well as had a concussion in spite of wearing a helmet.

My neurologist said I was lucky as my MRI was worse than patients of his with genuine brain damage.  And, yes, I was wearing a helmet.

Am I being irresponsible doing these things?  My wife thinks I am and should “slow down.”  I maintain that there are worse and greater risks just driving the freeways, and that being in good shape has allowed me to survive my few accidents relatively unscathed.  Okay, she still maintains that my last fall only aggravated existing brain damage (just joking).

So, if we are not to be hypocrites in front of our kids, what are the risk limits? I assert that there are things that are too dangerous and shouldn’t be done by any family members–drugs, drinking, parachuting, motorcycles, bungee jumping, hang-gliding, and calling a woman a “girl.”

I have always maintained that our kids see what we do and our role modeling is their teacher, much of the time. Therefore, it behooves us to also realize that the risks we take may encourage them to take similar or different ones.

Will and David are not particularly athletic, as David enjoys and excels at art while Will is a remarkable rock ‘n’ roll musician, playing drums, guitar, and singing.  Naturally, with this current injury, he’s sidelined for a while and has in fact stated that he may not bother snowboarding again due to its risk to his ability to play music.  His interest was always negligible.  David, on the other hand, does enjoy skiing, and is following in my footsteps as he gradually is improving and beginning to want to do the same “tricks” that I do.  He stated, on this trip, that he hopes to jump higher and get “more air” in the pipe than I do.  I replied that I hope he does.

When I was a teen, I wanted a motorcycle more than I wanted a girlfriend. And, believe me, my hormones were in full gear so the desire for a girlfriend was strong.  My parents forbade any discussion of a motorcycle. As I believed I was invulnerable and accidents only happen to other people, I was angry and wouldn’t let up in my pleas to get one. They held their ground and I respect their position especially knowing how fervent I was in trying to persuade them otherwise.

Now, as is so often the case, I’ve become my parents and hold the same line on motorcycles and other things that I perceive to be too dangerous.  We witness our neighbor’s son regularly riding his motorcycle around the neighborhood, popping wheelies, and rarely wearing his helmet.  I’ve spoken with his father, who insists that his son wear the helmet, and punishes him for a day or so each time he learns he isn’t wearing one.  But, his teen is back out there soon riding around without the helmet.  I no longer inform his dad as it’s clear that his ground rules are much more lenient than mine.  For me, if I allowed my boys to ride a motorcycle, they’d get one warning if I found them without a helmet.  After a second warning, their bike would be sold.

I’m grateful that my sons are not pushing me about motorcycles the way I pushed my parents.  I’m happier to provide a drum set (I can wear ear-plugs), new guitars, and all the art supplies they want.  In the meantime, I’ll still be doing the pipe, taking my calculated risks, and supporting my sons in making those decisions for themselves within safe parameters.

Image provided by Bruce Sallan

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