• Jeni Kelsch

Age before Wisdom



My children are getting older…so far. I don’t know how much longer it can last. The older they get, the bigger the risks they seem to take. You think I am exaggerating, but my 19-year-old daughter jumped out of an airplane the other day and it wasn’t even on fire or plummeting to the ground uncontrollably. She jumped out for fun. Granted she was strapped to another person and that person was strapped to a parachute but that still begs the question, Why? Why would you make a human daisy chain and throw yourself into the sky? Actually, the question I seem to get asked often lately is, “Why didn’t you stop her?” I had to pause the first time I was asked this to realize I had never considered trying to stop her. This either makes me very foolish or incredibly wise, obviously I lean toward the latter opinion.


When my son started racing cars, I learned very quickly that if you try to tell your adult children what to do, they will either listen to you or stop telling you what they are doing. I prefer the first but suspect the latter is more typical. I like to know what they are doing, I can pray more specifically that way, so I try to keep my advice to a minimum. But still, in their rush to pursue all things risky, I have to reflect on where this daredevil nature comes from. It’s not a form of conformism, none of my children’s friends are racing or jumping out of planes, so why are my kids? I’d like to say it’s because I instilled in them an unshakable confidence that they can do anything they set their minds to. But there is the possibility that they inherited a certain impulsiveness from their parents that rears its head in their fearlessness. I would prefer to believe the first, but suspect it is often the latter. It is a difficult matter to refute when my husband has taken up racing with my son. None the less, I do try to discourage them from impulsive behavior through casual conversation. It usually goes something like this.


Me: “So you want to jump out of a plane?”

Child: “Yes, Mom.” (slight eyeroll and sigh)

Me: (silently reflecting on whether I would want to jump out of a plane) “OK.”


This is sophisticated parenting, you may not have caught the implicit concern in my statement but it’s there. I know my kids have caught it because when they talk about me to each other it is never in glowing terms of admiration for my commitment to their sense of adventure but more of a constant litany of my failures as a parent. If I supported them in everything they wanted the poor dears would have nothing left to talk about. So I sacrifice as all parents have before me and occasionally quip, “Ya know, eating things that grow outside (they are usually green in case you are looking) might keep your teeth from falling out of your head.” Knowing full well the only response I will get is a grinding of said teeth. But sometimes a mother just has to lay the truth out there. Being the villain of every shared memory is hard, but I comfort myself in knowing that my skinny, toothless, sugar addicts will still come visit me when I am old because I didn’t chase them away with too much sage advice. That is, if I don’t outlive them.


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