- Valerie Bryant
My Dad Took a Risk and it Validated Me
When I was a youngster in the first grade, I recalled classmates playing the “Truth or Dare” game – a diversion that never met my fancy. To me, it was a so-called game geared to leave you feeling and looking like a fool. I never really played it because I didn’t want to take that risk – winding up on the wrong end of a matter, wishing I had never stepped into that wild deep. It’s when we often hear that 4-letter word, “Risk” that we turn away with no intention of crossing that line. I call it wisdom, except in a special case of validation.
Depending on your life experiences, risk can be something you learn to entirely avoid at all costs – especially if you ever got burnt. Still, I remember a day when my father took what I thought was a risk for me – and it honored me. It may not have seemed like a huge matter to him, yet to me, it defined a love that lifted me – for through his moment of taking a risk, I believe I saw his fullest regard for me.
The day was a picturesque summer afternoon where the Chicago skies were a hot deep blue, dotted with fluffy white clouds like the kind little people draw – flat on the bottom with scalloped billows on top. Our family had taken the day to dress in neat casual clothes for a special outing to a park across town. There must have been a family event going on because lots of other people were there, roaming in their various family groups. At some point, my dad stopped to purchase me a big bright shiny red ball.
There was not a more perfect orb in the universe, as far as I was concerned – because my dad had thought enough to get that one just for me. Dad was a hard-working man who had little notion for frivolous spending – so when he got me that ball, it meant something huge to my heart. It was a significant moment.
I held onto it and loved on my ball like it had the capacity to love me back. Because it was light-weight, I pressed it hard between my arm and my side as we moved about.
My dad and mom and I strolled to the edge of a mammoth-sized rectangular-shaped reflecting pool that had a raised flat cement border – a perfect perch for sitting poolside. It was a wide pool, complete with huge lily pads and other floating or submerged vegetation. We sat for a moment’s rest and to visually inspect surrounding sights.
No sooner had we set ourselves down did a huge Chicago-style gust appear out of nowhere, snatching my ball from my arm press and pushing it into that pond. Now the pool, as I recall, was deep and wide enough that no one with even a small degree of sense dared trespass. It was also just deep enough to uncomfortably soak your clothes and ruin your day – and today was way too perfect to be ruined.
I watched in dismay as the wind sailed my ball slowly towards the center of the pool. I realized now that my daddy’s eyes were also on my ball as he positioned himself far back over the water’s edge, hoping for a lucky grab. All I could think was how terribly I would feel if my dad actually lost his balance in the process. He would tumble backwards into the pool – all for the cause of my red ball. I wanted the ball, but I also didn’t want to see my dad humiliated in this loving risky act of retrieval.
It was then that the wind turned slightly and started the ball on a slow, teasing journey back towards us. It got within dad’s fingertips where he could barely touch it before it bobbed back in the opposite direction. His arm would be entirely outstretched and his body in a threatening lean over the water. Foiled by the wind, we all watched as the ball escaped his grasp.
Just when I thought all was lost, and probably just when my dad saw the increasing despair on my face, I watched him reposition himself, waiting for the wind to cooperate again. I remember the patient determination on his face as he waited. We waited. We watched. And then, as if to grant us one final tease, the wind did it again . . . and again . . . and again – pushing my ball coyly back at us. My dad would not be moved as he kept up his almost gravity-defying strained body lean over the water, determined to retrieve it. As fortune had it for me that day, his risk-taking persistence paid off when he finally succeeded.
Daddy placed my ball back into my hands, simply reminding me to hold onto it tightly. He could have offered me a few choice words about my carelessness that had caused his risky daring efforts to rescue the ball. He had every right to complain because he could have been made to look like a fool if he had flipped into that water. Instead, he dried his arm and we three continued on from there with our delightful family stroll.
I can’t tell you anything past that point about my prized red ball – as much as I prided myself at having it back in my possession. However, there is one thing I can tell you about the incident that I retain in my heart to this day. It is this:
My dad took a risk for me that day.
He had risked trading his own dignity before an entire population of people to possibly fall mercilessly into that pond. Nevertheless, I was important enough to him to risk his own personal humiliation. My childish feelings actually mattered to him. He had taken numerous risks for me to retrieve my ball when he could have stopped after the first gravity-defying attempt.
Consider today how far you would go to preserve your own child’s delights - by taking what would look like foolish risk to deliver for them. If you discover yourself in such a place, try seeing the matter from their perspective – which is their truest heart. Please take care not to slight them by always only focusing on maintaining your dignity. Remember my red ball and know that sometimes you might have to humiliate yourself, stretching way out beyond yourself on a limb to act on the depths of your love for them.
Do the close-knit family work to validate your child right from where they are. In their eyes, it could be the one moment in time that gives them truest validation they need from you - for life.