New Balloon Boy Challenges Parents' Fears

Julie Ryan Evans

hot air balloonEarlier this month, 9-year-old Bobby Bradley became the youngest person to ever fly solo in a hot air balloon. From his home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he waved goodbye to his parents and friends and set sail up into the air ... alone. He was up there for about 26 minutes, and when he safely returned to earth, he had accomplished what he'd been working to do for years.

While I immediately teared up thinking how brave and dedicated he was, and how amazing it is that his parents encouraged and enabled his dreams like that, reaction from others hasn't been quite so positive. An editorial in the Boston Globe deemed it "a foolish risk for a dumb record" and blamed his parents for risking "a potentially shattering event for no sound reason."

I'd be terrified absolutely to see one of my babies up there floating without me, but we can't let our fears hold our children back from what they want to do. His parents, also balloonists, say he was safe. While the FAA doesn't allow children to fly balloons solo until they're 14, they were able to get around the rule by creating a lighter, homemade version.

Some say those rules are in place for a reason and that the family should have waited, but why? If his parents -- who are knowledgeable in the area -- believe it's safe, then I'm glad they let the boy soar.

Psychologist Nadine Kaslow told ABC News: "If we don't allow this kind of thing, we never push the limits. We don't get great pianists and child stars. And that's sad."

As difficult as it is, we have to let our children take risks when they show a passion, no matter how scared we are. And it's VERY difficult. I still have doubts letting my 7-year-old son go on playdates without me, yet this summer he's going to surf camp -- at the ocean. All I can think about is drowning, sharks, and other scary things that lie beneath the water's surface. But I'll drive him there and back each day, fighting back my fears because I know what an incredible opportunity it is for him, and how much he's going to gain from the experience.

When I read stories about random accidents, like the 10-year-old boy who died last week after falling on a tree stump while playing outside, I remember just how little is really in our control when it comes to our children's safety. We can do what we can, but even if we try to protect them from everything, we can't. So why not let them pursue life to the fullest while it's theirs to live?

Of course, there's also a line where you have to ask what's a foolish and unnecessary risk and what's not, but in the case of this balloon boy, he seems to have set a goal, worked hard to prepare for it, and did it with all the careful preparation possible. That to me isn't foolish, but a fabulous accomplishment for this young man.

Do you think these parents were foolish for letting this boy fly alone? What risks do you have a difficult time letting your children take?

Image via bamyers4az/Flickr

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