|Thanks for the great photo, Jen (of Me, Myself & Jen)|
Several months back, I made the questionable parenting decision to allow my three boys to watch one of those Flying Wallendas walk across the Grand Canyon on a tightrope. Live. There were no safety nets or harnesses whatsoever.
What could possibly go wrong?
I tried to remain optimistic. Discovery Channel was broadcasting the walk, and I considered the network to be similar to Disney Channel and PBS in terms of family-friendly programming. Yet when the show began detailing all the Wallendas who had fallen to their early deaths, I felt compelled to call my husband at the firehouse for reassurance.
“You’re letting the kids watch WHAT?” Joe demanded.
“So… you think it’s a bad idea then? I’m sure Discovery Channel isn’t interested in airing a live tragedy. They must recognize it’s in the bag. The guy IS a professional.”
“Marianne, you do recall that Discovery Channel also airs Shark Week, Storm Chasers and The Deadliest Catch, right? When Captain Phil died, Discovery got monster ratings.”
“I thought you never wanted to talk about poor Captain Phil again?”
“It still hurts.”
I hung up with Joe feeling extremely unsure of myself. But my sons were riveted and counting down the moments to the live feat. If I attempted to put the kibosh on things now, my teetering regime would surely be overthrown.
I next tried convincing myself that the suspense associated with these televised stunts is practically a rite of childhood passage. After all, didn’t every kid in the 1970s tune in to watch Evel Knieval? And who could forget that episode of Happy Days where Fonzie jumped the shark on water skis? We were a nation of daredevils, I told myself. Isn’t that what being an American is all about?
Except me, of course. I make my kids wear helmets when they play Duck-Duck-Goose.
By the time Nik Wallenda made it safely to the other side, praying to Jesus with each precarious step, I was a wreck. My kids, on the other hand, cheered wildly and pulled out a jump rope so they could start “practicing” their careers as aerialists.
I naturally made them put on helmets.
Like most people, I am very relieved that Mr. Wallenda survived his personal challenge. The man has an adoring wife and a young family whom would be devastated by his loss. Yet as a mom, I am also thankful that I didn’t have to launch into a teachable moment about the dangers of walking across string stretched tightly above hundreds of feet of earth. Had Mr. Wallenda fallen, I would still be dealing with the endless questions and extra hugs at bedtime.
In a way, I sense a certain kinship between myself and the bold Mr. Wallenda. Parenting, as it turns out, is quite similar to tight-rope walking.
There are no safety nets or second chances.
But there is praying. A whole lot of praying.