I am not a risk-taker.
The worst that can happen—as in, “what’s the worst that…?”—is usually far too “worst” for me.
This is the same reason I can’t sell ANYTHING. My husband, a natural salesman like his father before him, says, “My dad always said, ‘The worst someone can say is ‘no.’” To which I always reply, “EXACTLY! They might say no! I’d rather just not ask in the first place.” I honestly can’t think of a possible “yes” that’s worth the risk of a “no.”
Yet here I am, 22 contiguous years into parenting, and it’s easily the riskiest thing I’ve ever done.
Honestly, I think it’s the riskiest thing any parent who’s in it for the long haul and for the highest good of their children ever does.
No one tells you this, of course. Baby shower and new baby cards don’t say, “Congratulations! You have just leapt off the highest cliff of your life!” They say things about new hands to hold and a new heart to love. Both of which, bless the day, are true!
But it’s a chancy truth.
Love is always a risk. We risk our hearts. We risk our comfort. We risk our convenience. But often we make this investment with some reassurance that love will be returned. We get married and enter into a covenant…a promise that goes both ways. Or we love a friend who, at least to begin with, seems to love us back.
But parenting is a chance we take without any prior agreement from one of the major parties involved. Our children can rightly tell us, “I didn’t ask to be born!” (And many children across the ages have availed themselves of this claim).
Signing on voluntarily to love the children we bring into the world is in a risk class of its own. It reminds me of what Mary Steenburgen’s character tells Steve Martin’s character in the movie Parenthood: “What do you want? Guarantees? These are kids, not appliances.”
We risk our children not loving us. We risk them not liking us. We risk them breaking our hearts. We risk them leaving us.
We risk pain where they are concerned that is none of their own doing and also pain that is.
We take this edgy chance partly because we don’t know what we’re getting into (ignorance being if not bliss then at least emboldening).
We also take it because we suspect there are joys to be had in this uncertain game we won’t find by playing it safe.
But mostly we take it because we trust it will be worth it.
Worth it in the most life-changing, life-bettering ways.
Worth it when they learn something new we’ve taught them.
Worth it when they learn something new we didn’t teach them.
Worth it when they teach us something we needed to learn but couldn’t have learned any other way.
Worth it when we fight and win battles together.
Worth it when we get to watch them do something that lights them up.
Worth it when they make the world a better place.
Worth it when they do something only they can do.
Worth it when they’re loved enough to leave us when they can.
Worth it when they love us enough to come back when they can.
Worth it when they fill up a space in our hearts we didn’t know was waiting for anything.
I know there are parents who wish with all their broken hearts they hadn’t taken this risk. I can only try to start to imagine all the reasons this might be true. How I hope these parents will be surprised in the near future by joys they can’t begin to imagine in the present.
But for me—and I do not take this one bit for granted—becoming a parent is without question the biggest chance I’ve ever taken that I’d absolutely, without a doubt, take all over again.
by Elizabeth Spencer