Our world is so full of incredible things to see. Life is way too short. Without taking risks, lives just pass by and a person can end theirs having been just a little speck on a map that never moved very far from its starting point, never made a mark, and never made any waves.
We are a military family and are fortunate enough to have traveled the world more than most people. I took the photos in this post when we lived in Sana'a, Yemen in 2005. For one year, we were able to see sights that most people will never see other than in pictures, including some places that I'm sure not many Americans have been able to visit since. Without our willingness to take risks, and be uncomfortable and even scared at times, the amazing memories I have would belong to someone else more willing to step away from what was familiar and comfortable.
If we played it safe, the years we spent exploring overseas may have instead been spent on a military base, in a military town, shopping at familiar markets, eating out at restaurants, going to the movies, and shopping. Although we missed those comforts, making the gutsy decision to give them up was the best decision we ever made. There is no better way to learn how brave you are than to force yourself to try something new. There is no better way to learn to appreciate what you have as an American than to give it up for a life somewhere else where people have so little.
When I first asked myself the question is it better to play it safe or take risks, I thought my answer without hesitation was to take the risks. For a second I forgot about the one area of my life that I play it so safe it's almost funny at times. When it comes to my son, even as he approaches his second birthday, I play it safe to the point that I still watch him sleep on a monitor, still refuse to allow stuffed animals in his crib for fear he'll suffocate, and just in general still feel like I could make some mistake at any moment that would hurt him. I wouldn't let him try solid food until he was six months for fear that he would choke or stop nursing. I closely checked the temperature in his room so that the risk of SIDS was lessened after reading that it may be caused by overheating and I really wanted a digital thermometer in his room.
Looking back on this photo I took of the children in the back of that car in Yemen for the first time as a parent, I almost feel sorry that I took it. As a mother, the photo means more to me than what, at the time, was just some adult taking a ridiculous risk with those little ones. There is nothing more precious to me than my child. Even if it seems silly and I know that I can't protect him from everything, I will let my parenting continue to be a place that my rule is to play it safe. Even though I thought nothing of walking through a bazaar in a Muslim country without covering my face or my bright red hair, I still have trouble letting go of the video baby monitor, the parenting manuals, and the homemade baby food maker.
Have you ever seen a beautiful beach with nothing but a camel on it? If not, do something about that! Make the brave choices instead of the safe choices sometimes.