Saturday, July 12, 2008

Adventure versus Success

Lenore Skenazy wrote about a story from her family in which a responsible child getting lost led to more adventure and self-reliance than tragedy and heartache. She asks other parents to do the same.

To me the tension between adventure and success is more a gender issue than a parenting issue. Allow me to illustrate with a story...

About a year ago I made plans on a nice summer day to meet with a congregant for lunch. He works downtown, and we would meet outside his office. I was going to bicycle, but on a whim decided to rollerblade. I had not used my rollerblades for over eight years. Could I even still rollerblade? Would I fall and scrape myself up? Would I go a few miles and then be unable to finish? It turns out I could still rollerblade, and made it to the lunch meeting without any problems. At lunch my friend and I talked about how guys like adventure.

To both of us it seemed quite reasonable that I jeopardized our lunch meeting by attempting a fun and foolish adventure. Since I had a cell phone, if I had fallen and scraped myself or had worn myself out I could have called him to let him know what had happened. Such a disaster would be minor and humorous, something to laugh about then and later, and thus just as successful as a lunch hour and as a contribution to our friendship as our lunch meeting.

On the other hand, we both agreed our wives would have been aghast at my decision. In their minds an adventure that led to problems would definitely have been not at all successful, and definitely not a fitting replacement for sharing lunch together.

My son is still much too young to get lost (he only started rolling over this week). As a father I cannot reasonably expect that he will never get lost. But I can try to teach him the skills and attitudes he would use to turn problem situations into adventures and puzzles he must solve rather than disasters and situations he already failed.

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