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New Priorities

So yesterday afternoon a small plane crashed into an apartment building here in New York. We all immediately assumed terrorists, of course, and everyone had flashbacks to where they were and how they felt on September 11. As of this writing it was determined to be non-terrorist – simply a tragic accident involving a novice pilot and his instructor.

For a couple hours, though, it was up in the air, and my instinctive reaction was, “This is just the beginning.” Attacking a relatively small (50 story) apartment building didn’t fit the terrorist MO, so I was almost assuming a larger attack was imminent, probably around rush hour. Since I was home and Brian works from home, we were safe, but he was due to head into the city during rush hour to lead a worship service.

Without even asking me, Brian called and said he wouldn’t make it. Was he afraid to travel? No. He simply knew I’d worry the whole time. After 9/11, which he was in the middle of, I was nervous any time he was out of my sight for several weeks. And that was before we became parents. 

Thinking of a life without my husband was incredibly painful back then; trying to imagine raising a child without him now is mind-boggling.

When the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, died recently, Daddytypes  posted an entry  ruminating on our responsibility as parents to re-examine our lives and make responsible choices that will make it more likely we’ll be around to raise our own kids. It really got me thinking about how you define acceptable risks once you become a parent.

Brian has life insurance; I do not. As a mostly stay-at-home-mom, we were told by the agents we consulted that SAHMs don’t usually take out a policy; apparently their lives aren’t as expensive to replace. I still wonder if that’s wise, though it certainly saves us the cost of the premium. I mean, how would Brian pay for childcare while he continues to work? Or how would he quit work to stay with Maddie?

But at any rate, Brian’s insured – we decided that as long as we live in NYC he needs a policy. I don’t want the money, though – I want my husband around to help raise our kids.

Which brings me back to yesterday afternoon. When faced with a situation of unknown dangerousness, Brian made the choice to cancel his plans. He weighed up the risks and decided they were unacceptably high. If it were a meeting on which his job depended, perhaps the decision would have been different.

But perhaps it wouldn’t have been. As parents we both now have an obligation to think of more than our own selves. I’m not talking about living in a hut in the middle of the desert, or never getting on a plane – we can’t live in fear our whole lives. We do, though, owe it to our children to re-evaluate the wisdom of going on that X-Treme Ski trip where you jump out of a helicopter, or hiking to the top of Everest just because you read a book about it. You can’t, as the Daddytypes blog so eloquently said, deny who you are; if you’re an Olympic skier only you can decide what quitting skiing because of the health risks will do to your mental health. But we can keep our eyes on the bigger picture. And I’m not just talking about physical risks, either: our whole financial perspective –from saving for college, to spending money on new clothes for Maddie vs. new boots for me – has made a radical shift as well.

I’m not personally worried about dying – I’ll be in a way better place than we are now when that happens. But since I’ve become a mother, I’ve begun to count myself more precious – not because I’m the only person in the world that can raise my child, but because I know I can give her something no one else in this world can, and I think that’s important. This makes both me and Brian try to eat better, exercise more, and make better choices in all aspects of our daily life.

We’ve got new priorities in our lives, and they’re worth sticking around for.

So tell me – how has having a child changed the way you go about your life risk-wise? Has it at all? I’m really interested here.


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