Be Careful or Pay Attention

A month ago, our family spent a week on a ranch with a group of lifelong friends and their children.  As a group of our children scaled a rock wall together (and I became increasingly nervous), I asked another dad how he considers the physical risks that his children take.  He responded with the following.  

“My wife and I don’t really say ‘be careful’ to our kids because we don’t want them to be fearful, or necessarily careful, as they interact with the world.  Instead we say, ‘pay attention.’  We want them to pay attention to their surroundings and how they are feeling at any moment.  To be able to assess risk clearly and learn from any situation that they encounter.”

That sounded right to me, and honestly like advice that I should take.

Now, as I remind my children to “pay attention” when they take risks, I am reminded in return of a profound hope for them and for myself. I hope for our ability to attend to the world and the inner life with sensitivity and intuition, rather than with fear.