Playing it safe
One of my favorite summertime activities is sitting poolside and soaking in that sweet, sweet vitamin D. As I sat there soaking in the sun the other day, I heard a mother talking to her daughter. A daughter who was small and not yet a swimmer. A daughter who required her vest to float; she didn’t know how to be in the water without it. Yet the daughter, curious and daring, wanted to be in the water without the vest.
“You are such a daredevil. Such a daredevil. I don’t know what to do with you. You are a daredevil, but you need to be safe.”
…but you need to be safe.
Those six words made me cringe. Cringe because in that moment those 6 words—words that seem harmless, words spoken only to float away in the breeze like dandelion seeds—gave that little girl two paths. She can choose to be a daredevil: Taking chances in life. Taking risks. Finding a purpose and passion to fight for. Or she can choose to play it safe. Live a life of mediocrity, following the path she believes is the best and right path to take because she was told “be safe”. If you have to be safe, you can’t be a daredevil. If you have to be safe, you can’t experience failure and the joy of bouncing back. If you have to be safe, you can’t discover what helps you thrive.
In that moment, the little girl’s laughter and splashing ceased. The jovial bouncing in the water and thrill of trying to figure it out on her own dissipated. Those six little words became her vest.
If the child in the pool with her, was her son, would the mother have told him the same thing? Or would she have laughed off that he was a daredevil and continue to allow him to try it on his own with the nonchalant “boys will be boys” attitude? Because little boys are strong and have to learn things on their own. They have to take chances and risks to discover their power and their identity
…but little girls have to be protected and safe. Be safe so you don’t get hurt. Don’t play in the dirt. Have a protector. Wait for your Prince Charming to rescue you. From day one we are told “play it safe.” We are taught that having a man provide for us will complete us. We are to get married and have children, raise a family and don’t voice an opinion. We are told that that life is the right life for us. So, we suppress that daredevil that stirs restlessly inside our tiny hearts. Until the light, the spark we try to ignite in ourselves to allow that daredevil to emerge is slowly suffocated by the insistent voices.
- “You have to be safe”
- “You need to go to college and get a degree”
- “God will bring the right man into your life someday”
- “You are supposed to get married and have kids”
The daredevil we long to be is replaced by the image we are told to portray. Replaced by the bricks of the road paved for us. And we take off our capes, letting them collect dust in the corner of the closet.
Lead her to dare
Mothers: don’t teach your daughters to play it safe, teach them what it looks like to be a daredevil, so they can leave an impression on this world. Give them the foundation, give them the bricks, but let them build their path for themselves. Let them discover risks and purpose. Let them discover failure. Let them discover pain. Don’t let them play it safe.
Playing it safe leads to mediocrity.
Playing it safe leads to doubt and insecurity.
Playing it safe leads to what ifs and regrets.
Playing it safe leads to resentment.
Help her believe she can fight
I’m not a mother (nor do I think I want to be), but I am a daughter. A daughter who thought she had to walk on the safe road, traveling the road that others placed before me, when all I wanted to do was go to the field and pick some flowers instead. In 1993, as a mere 7-year-old, I was obsessed and I mean OBSESSED with a little show known as the Power Rangers (Ya’ll, I still have that vhs tape of the very first original episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers…). But that wasn’t a show little girls watched. That was a boys’ show. Girls weren’t supposed to be interested in fighting and being a hero, standing up to hatred and evil trying to destroy whatever good remained. So, I played it safe. I hid my obsession and when all the boys in class geeked out over the show, I sat quietly and played “school” at recess, when all I wanted to do was fight Rita Repulsa.
A year ago, I chose to leave the safe road. I chose to completely upheave my life and resign from a job that had become toxic for me. I chose to finally listen to that daredevil. I chose to fight for me. It took me 26 years to discover that being female and a daredevil isn’t bad. It isn’t wrong. It isn’t shameful. It isn’t embarrassing. 26 years later, I finally put on those pink power ranger action gloves from Christmas of 1994 and kicked some serious booty.
I had a conversation with my mother the other day. A raw, open conversation. The type I usually don’t have with her because I still catch myself playing it safe in some areas of my life. I play it safe, worrying about how she will respond. But I learned something about myself this past year: if I choose not to be open and vulnerable, sharing my story and how I’ve grown, I’m denying my daredevil. I’m not allowing myself to inspire change. I’m not allowing myself to be me.
I chose to be honest and share something with her, knowing I took a pretty big risk of seeing the sadness and disappointment in her expression—which I did—but also knowing she still loves me. The conversation led her to ask some questions which gave me the opportunity to let her see just how broken and unhealthy of a place I was in a year ago and to see the person I’ve become over the past 12 months. Sometimes being a daredevil isn’t about dangerous tricks and ridiculous stunts. Sometimes it’s just being human and letting others see that. I might be 33 years old, but my mother is helping me discover that daredevil. She’s helping me see that playing it safe won’t help me fulfill the person I desire to be daily: someone who chooses to dare.
Choosing to dare leads to fulfillment. Choosing to dare leads to raw, genuine connection. Choosing to dare leads to freedom
Mothers, don’t teach her to play it safe.
Don’t teach her she needs protection and comfort all the time. Don’t teach her misguided ideologies of what her life should be. Don’t teach her to suppress the person she is called to be.
Don’t give her the umbrella.
Don’t give her the crown.
Don’t hand her the baby doll.
Hand her the cape so she can dare. Help her be an influence. Help her be an inspiration. Help her be a force to be reckoned with in this world.