My father has “the gift.” He is not a psychic, or a fortune teller, but he can tell you exactly what is going to happen next….especially if it involves calamity. He can see right down the line from action to reaction to disaster, and he does not hesitate to forewarn. Some would call it the gift of prophecy, but usually his predictions are far closer to just good common sense than supernatural revelations. “I can see what’s going to happen…” he starts…and then will come the caution. “That boy is going to put his eye out with that stick!” “You are going to be sorry.” “Someone is bound to knock over that grape juice.”
When I was growing up, I would listen to his warnings, but then often ignore them because they seemed so ridiculous sometimes. I have common sense! I’m sure I’ll see the hurdle coming in time to jump it. The infuriating thing is that his predictions always seemed to come true…more than likely BECAUSE I didn’t heed the warning. In addition to, or maybe because of his gift, he also was a realist. “Lord willing, tomorrow I will….” he would say. It was a touch morbid since it implied he could be called home to Heaven at any moment, but he was always quick to remind us that God was always watching over us, had a plan for us. I think he hoped that he would imbue my sister and me with both caution and comfort. He wanted to keep us safe.
And now it appears I have inherited his gift because I too can always seem to spot impending disaster and am thus a safety girl. I’m cautious. Although I’m embarrassed to admit it, better safe than sorry is often the motto running through my head. And it’s probably in the voice of my father! And I’m even passing the trait along to a new generation; I’m a safety mom. Nothing in the world is as precious to me as my children…there is no way I’m going to take chances with them. And most of the time, I think that’s the way it should be. I’m the mama…I’m the mama bear actually….I’m just taking good care of my little cubs. But every once in a while….I get to thinking. Because my son is not a safety boy. And he isn’t too happy about the safety mom sometimes. He doesn’t appreciate the gift.
It has affected his life since Jack was little and we contemplated what sports he participated in. I signed him up for tennis and swimming and t-ball and soccer because I thought those were not only great sports, but relatively safe…non-contact. When he was a little older, I let him venture into karate and flag football, but that was on the outer limits of my safety scope. They were getting just a little too close to full contact for my comfort. But for Jack, he has always wanted what was way off my radar screen….he didn’t even want to play traditional sports. He wanted extreme! He loved climbing trees when he was just a little boy, and he would climb so high, I would actually feel nauseated. I could hear my father saying, “He’s going to fall out of that tree. He’s climbing too high.” And a few times, he did. He, however, thought it was hilarious and was always rearing to go back up for more….then he discovered skateboarding and BMX. Danger, danger, and more danger! The gravitational pull was too much for this mother to overcome….now he wants to do paintball and shoot bb guns and other activities that are sure to result in heart failure for his mama.
And it’s not just sports. He wants independence. He wants to ride his bike where he wants and walk places by himself…places that are not that far or dangerous…but still. It makes my tummy turn and my heart flutter. Because what if something happens to him? What if I’m not there? What if I can’t protect him and keep him safe? What if he, like I, ignores the warnings of his parent? What then? My “gift” can come up with too many nightmarish scenarios.
My friend Ronna seems to have no issue with this as I do. She encourages her son to be “wild at heart”….live a life on the edge. Her son does all kinds of wild things…dirt biking, rock climbing, snowboarding, hunting ….things that I told her would turn me into a schizophrenic mom. I would be in one breath saying, “That’s awesome! Go for it!” immediately followed by, “Get off that thing before you kill yourself!!!!!! Get away from the edge!” I don’t think I could take it. The whole thing has me so conflicted. Where do you draw the line? When do you give your child the longer leash and the freedom that they desire? When do you let go of the safety handbook and let them step out, unprotected? When do you muffle the “gift”?
I guess I have to consider what kind of man I want Jack to be. Do I want him to live in fear…always cautious…always safe…but never going for his dreams? Do I want my gift of cautionary wisdom to turn into a curse for his life….something that robs him of new experiences and thrills and heart-pounding excitement and surprising victories? Or do I want him to experience a life on the edge....on the extreme, where he is so happy? I have the choice and the privilege to pass on a new gift….courage. Hopefully, he has experienced life with his safety mom long enough to balance out the courage with some wisdom and common sense. It looks like it may be time to get a much longer leash and let my boy grow. Give him the freedom he desires and draw strength from my father’s old assurances…God is watching over my boy. He has a plan for him.
I can still hear my dad’s voice of caution. I can hear him beckoning me to keep his grandson safe, because he loves him so much. But I need to let him go further out to explore life on the edge….it might be the edge of insanity for me…but I’m sure the view is spectacular.