Austin, my seven year-old cousin, is a pretty awesome little guy. He’s silly with the very best giggle. He’s clever, he does math without realizing it’s math. He’s determined, just watch him navigate the “one more book” bedtime negotiation. And he’s brave.
But he doesn’t really know he’s brave.
A few years ago, I suggested he try tubing. He told me a flat-out no.
“Let’s just play on the tube,” I suggested. So we did.
“Let’s just tie the tube to the boat.” And we did.
“Let’s just see what it feels like to be pulled really slowly by the boat.” And it felt pretty fun.
I told him he got to decide the speed. He’d say faster/slower/stop, and I’d give his dad the sign.
With each “faster”, he got braver and braver. And we went faster and faster.
“FASTER!” yelled Austin. But I stopped giving the faster sign. I knew what would happen if he let go at this speed. It’d hurt like hell. He didn’t know the consequence, he only knew how awesome it felt in the moment.
Frustrated with me for not giving the “faster” sign, he yelled with all he had:
“AS FAST. AS THE BOAT. CAN GO!”
Fast forward a few years to this past Easter. After dinner, Austin and I headed over to the park near his gran’s house with his scooter. We spent almost an hour timing how fast he could scoot around the splash pad.
“It took me 10 seconds to do one lap, so it’ll probably take me one minute to do six laps. Can you time me to see?”
Just Austin, doing math without realizing it’s math.
Austin gave it his everything. After about the fourth lap, I asked if he was dizzy.
“I think I am!” He giggled and just kept going.
“Are you okay? Be careful.” I said. I knew what would happen if he fell. He either didn’t know or didn’t care. What he was doing was too fun.
Consequences are interesting. And important, obviously. I know that if I touch a hot stove, I’ll burn my hand. I know if I’m late for work every day, I’ll lose my job.
But sometimes we’re too focused on the consequences, we don’t leave room to consider the excitement that we’d miss out on.
Yes, it would’ve hurt if we’d fallen off the tube. We’d likely get water up our nose and it’d be a bit scary. But I would’ve never forgotten laughing-to-the-point-of-not-breathing as he screamed “AS FAST. AS THE BOAT. CAN GO!”
Yes, Austin could’ve fallen going so fast around the splash pad. There’d be tears and we’d need Band-Aids, but he’d always remember how he went around the splash pad six times in 59.45 seconds.
Sometimes potential consequences should stop us from doing something. But other times, they shouldn’t. The trick is weighing the consequences to the experiences. The benefits of going “AS FAST. AS THE BOAT. CAN GO!” go outweigh some water in our noses…if it even happens.