Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Skydiver Parenting Part 1: Intro and Your Team

Once upon a time, I was an avid skydiver. I used to drive down to the dropzone (DZ) on a Friday night, crash overnight and be out on the first load in the morning. In some cases, I was hung over... but that's ok because nothing cures a hangover like an airbath and Darlene's eggs. I'd hang out all weekend, jumping and packing parachutes and pal'ing around with my skydiver buds and then, on Sunday afternoon, head back home to the real world and re-enter life.

I miss skydiving. There's something about the thrill of it all, the zen clarity of having something life or death going on, and the incredible camaraderie of a group of people who literally trust each other with their lives regularly that makes it an amazing season in my life. I hope that it's a season I'll revisit someday, but it just isn't compatible with raising young kiddos. When I was all alone for a weekend it was great. Now I choose to be home with my family. Still, on a sunny day when the sky is blue and the wind is low I sometimes look up to the sky, tracking the high puffy clouds to gauge the "uppers" and remembering the way the air smelled at the DZ in the morning.

Recently I have been feeling that tickle of a seed of thought trying to push up through the soil. An idea has been forming in the back of my mind, and the more I think on it the more I know I'm right about this. The idea is this - that there's a lot of important lessons from skydiving that apply to parenting. So I'm going to explore this idea and see if there's a flower blooming...

Lesson 1: Pick Your Team Wisely

When you decide to start skydiving, you usually do it on a whim or on the blind so this is a lesson that occurs to me in hindsight. If you are thinking you want to skydive ever, take note. I wish someone had told me. Luckily, I got this part right on accident but not everyone is so fortunate.

When you are starting up your skydiving adventure you need to be careful about who you start it with. Sure you could just wander into any tandem shop off the street and get your rollercoaster ride. But if you are entertaining any thoughts of pursuing this seriously, you really ought to find the right place to learn. Go online and search your area. Check for reviews, find out their injury rate, look at the cost. Find out their style - is it an assisted freefall (AFF) group or static line? Do they tend to teach things "old school" or are they more modern in their approach? If you have a hankering to learn sit-fly, you'd better find a place where a few people know it. If you want to do canopy relative work (CRW), you're going to need someone else to do it with. (That's why they call it "relative" work.) Does the atmosphere fit your personality? Is it a professional, businesslike place or a club full of rowdy buddy types?

This is all pretty important in the world of skydiving, and about a thousand times more so in the realm of parenting. Who are you making/raising this kid with? How well do you really know them? I know everyone shies away from judging people based on rumors, and I'm generally one to agree, but the rumor mill can be a rough gauge. Do you know of at least five women claiming he's their baby-daddy and he doesn't help out? That's probably not a good sign... because even if half of these girls are lying that's still two kids he's left hanging. Yours could be the next! What about approach? If you are a baby-wearing, nurse until they go to college, co-sleeping sort of new-age mom then your partner should not be someone "old school" who thinks babies can be spoiled by being "held too much." If you're looking for a natural birth, you need someone who will support that. If you want to adopt, you need someone who is on board.  Discuss everything from discipline to finances to family time and if you aren't on the same page then either find the middle ground or reconsider starting a family with this person.

The bottom line is that you and this person will be bound to each other, through this child, for the rest of that kid's life. Even if he or she ditches and is never seen or heard from again you can bet that when you look at your child you will remember that person who helped you make them. You don't want to spend the next 18 years, minimum, either constantly battling with the person who is supposed to be working with you or wishing you could forget the person who helped you create this precious life.

Parents ought to be a team in order to provide a child with the best possible upbringing. It doesn't matter if you are straight, gay, divorced, or whatever other situation. If you can't at least work together where your child is involved then you will put your kid in the middle of all sorts of tension and give them leverage galore to pit you and the other parent against each other, with all manner of negative outcomes.

All I'm saying is that you are going to be working with this person. For a long, long time. So look before you leap. It will save you a lot of pain and frustration.

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