At one point, while rafting and hiking the Grand Canyon last week, I looked up to see my children and husband about a mile away, dangling their feet off a cliff as I sat looking at the sheer drop into the canyon below. It occurred to me that I would need to explain to my mother how and why I let that happen. So here is my explanation, to Mom and others, about safety and how I actually came to terms with the dangers that surround us and how we are adapting.
First, Let me say our guides did a great job explaining to us how to climb, when to climb and where it was safe to climb. Lee wanted to climb everything he saw. But Shawn, our guide, explained that he wanted to climb too. Climbing is fun but you need to think about where you are, how (and whether) you can get help, and how getting hurt would affect the group. That talk changed Lee’s constant and random attempts at scaling our campside cliffs or “exploring” which made me feel better! The guides told us which areas were safe to climb and when we came across some very secure boulders we climbed and scrambled until our bodies were sore.
When it came to hikes we always followed the guides. Lee was always up front because he was fast. That didn’t mean there were no dangers. Twice on very small trails (shelfs actually, with a long drop to the side) we came face to face with a Big Horn sheep blocking our path. Luckily, in both case they stepped aside or turned around, but it was intimidating. Each time the guides showed us where to walk and how to climb. They usually did so without words, but by doing it. Sometimes they waited at tough crossings to show us exactly where to step, or to assist.
On the raft, life jackets were worn all the time. The kids could swim on the shore but not in the rapids or if the current was strong. One time the kids were swimming and the captain told them the current was strong in one spot but they could swim in another area without life jackets. Interestingly Lee wore a life jacket anyway – even though the other kids did not. This is exactly what a Mom could hope for. He began to learn his limits and to respect the potential dangers in the area.
Finally, on the hike I first described, I got dehydrated and stayed at the half way point. I watched the rest go on past and hike to these amazing Anasazi ruins in a cliff. I could see the little shelf and the huge cliff they were dangling from. I sat below helpless. There were no barriers, no nets, no caution signs. If you fall, you die. The guides tell the kids how to step carefully but there were 7 kids up there. The kids loved it. They felt free. Yes there is danger involved but they were taught how to be safe.
The deal is… this is the real world. I have protected them. I have taught them. They are taught to be safe. They are taught not to do stupid things to be unsafe.
I expect to encounter a lot of danger on this trip. I don’t expect to be immune to it or not have bad things happen. But I hope to learn from it and learn our limits. I hope we are safe and make good choices. I am not looking to put us in harm’s way. So relax, Mom! Right now we are safe in a Vegas hotel room. (There is a whole new set of dangers in Vegas, but that is another post!)