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Dangerous ambitions: when your child follows a dream that could endanger their life.

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#1 Kylie Orr

Posted 31 October 2011 - 08:18 AM

It’s Spring Racing Carnival in Melbourne! The sun is shining (in intervals), the shops are full of fascinators and fancy frocks, and the bookies are gearing up for the biggest race of the year.

A topical movie has been launched just in time for racing season. The Cup documents an emotional time in the life of jockey Damien Oliver. One week out from the 2002 Melbourne Cup, his brother and fellow jockey, Jason is crushed in an horrific racing accident. Reminiscent of the fateful ride that caused their father’s death 27 years before, it leaves the family broken and weighing the toll of two family deaths resultant of a sport they love. Counselling Damien through his decision to race the following week, raw with emotion, family opinions are split. The Oliver family considers racing is in the blood: “it’s what we do” is Damien’s stance. Jenny, Jason’s widow, cannot tolerate the prospect of losing another family member to the sport, and appeals to the mother to call enough’s enough.

As a parent, this scene really struck me. What do you do when your children have an ambition that could ultimately lead to their death? We spend our parenting years encouraging, rewarding and embracing our children’s talents. We enthusiastically cheer them to follow their dreams, leap for the sky, and pursue a career they love.

When the decision they make goes against the ingrained instinct to protect and nurture, where does that leave the parent?

After her husband died, Mrs Oliver could have reasonably strayed from the racing world and encouraged her children to follow other, safer ambitions. But would she have been doing them a disservice? Would they have lost a part of their father by avoiding the sport he was truly obsessed with, even though it was his ultimate demise?

The thunderous sound of hooves belting down the track was enough to deter my desire to ever mount a horse but for the Olivers, it was the adrenaline rush that fuelled their life’s passion. As much as the risk of death was ever-present, a life without racing was an equivalent death of their soul.

As a mum, I would have wanted Damien to seize that opportunity to fulfil his dream of winning the Melbourne Cup. As a parent who had raised two children alone, after losing a husband to a racing accident, and then one of those children to a similar death, I would have equally wanted my only living child to give up the sport. A dichotomy with an impossible reconciliation.

Damien was an adult and difficult as it was, it was his decision to make.

I’m not quite at the stage where my children are evaluating careers and I don’t think there’s anything so powerful dominating our lives as racing was for the Oliver family. Unless you count food. Chocolate, specifically.

My eight year old loves kicking a footy around and believes he’ll play for Carlton one day. I can’t say I love AFL, but at this point I’m more than happy to foster a team spirit, and a healthy passion for exercise. What if he shows real promise and eventually gets drafted? Would I discourage it because he may end up with a brain injury from a sporting incident? Do I steer him towards the less-inclined-to-do-yourself-a-permanent-injury-sport of tennis?

If my six year old’s current obsession with couch diving is anything to go by, he’ll end up a stunt man. Perhaps an introduction to competitive pool diving would be worthwhile.

My three year old is enamoured with fire trucks. Next week he’ll probably want to be a carrot, so I’m not too concerned about his dangerous ambitions.

The baby can maintain a deadpan expression that would have her winning poker games internationally. I’m sure there’re hidden dangers in that career too.

When they are so young, the prospect of limiting their interests and passions seems ludicrous.

This is where the struggle lies, as a parent. Protecting them and setting them free are two conflicting skills we must eventually conquer. Tougher than winning the Melbourne Cup!

Have you limited your children’s choices to maintain their safety in the long term? Do you worry about the passions you’ve allowed them to follow?


#2 Guest_Boxers Wife_*

Posted 31 October 2011 - 08:43 AM


Edited by They're Obsessed, 25 February 2012 - 12:10 PM.

#3 Unatheowl

Posted 31 October 2011 - 08:48 AM

No, I would let my kids chase their dreams, whether it was writing poetry or driving Forumla 1 cars.  Wouldnt stop me worrying though!

#4 ubermum

Posted 31 October 2011 - 08:50 AM

Living is a risk. I want my kids to follow their dreams, however uncomfortable I feel. I just hope they take as many precautions as possible.

#5 TheAP

Posted 31 October 2011 - 09:03 AM

I'm not sure how I feel about this topic.

On one hand I'm all for encouraging my child/ren to follow their dreams. I dreamt of doing medicine but due to life's circumstances have been unable to follow that dream and I know how it makes my heart ache.

On the other hand, my partner followed his dream of racing motorcycles. No one in his family raised concerns or discussed the negative possibilities with him (but that's a whole other story!). 6 years ago DF came off his bike at 200km an hour and sustained an horrific brain injury. Incredibly he has recovered to a point of returning to his high stress IT job and copes pretty well with life. However, there are significant issues with his memory and they have impacted on his relationships, his life, his work and they have an impact on his short term health and possible long term health outcomes. They impact on our every day life and there are times where I have to stop and remind myself that my expectations of him are too high. Particularly when I've spent an hour looking for something he's put away in the wrong spot because he can't remember a) that it has a spot to live and b) where that spot is.

For this reason, I will not encourage my children to partake in activities that have a significantly high risk of brain trauma. I will not encourage my child to participate in rugby, boxing or motorbike racing. Brain injuries last for life.

I will actively encourage my child to participate in any other activities he wishes too but a discussion about the high risk activities will absolutely include a discussion about the lifelong consequences of sustaining an injury doing those activities.

Edited by Smyla80, 31 October 2011 - 09:05 AM.

#6 kpingitquiet

Posted 31 October 2011 - 09:46 AM

Aside from forbidding activities and incurring potential resentment and a "late start" to those things, I don't think there's much you can do to stop someone. Crushing their spirit might work but meh.

Kiddo's grandfather was a jockey. He certainly got banged up a LOT. I don't know that I would discourage her at all. It's her life, not mine. I can only try to teach her the safest way to approach that life and hope for the best.

#7 reng

Posted 31 October 2011 - 02:56 PM

I work in the racing industry, and there is no denying that it's a dangerous game.  Horses are big animals (500-600kg), fast (up to 70km/hr) and are fabulous athletes.

The whole industry is about the pursuit of dreams. This article sums it up nicely - the impossible balance for a parent to choose between safety and dreaming.  

On one extreme, we can let our kids pursue crazy dreams at massive risk to themselves.  At the other end, we can hover and protect them from doing anything that might cause a small graze on their knee.  I think that every parent has a balance point somewhere in the middle, and that point probably changes as they grow too.

Just watch kids in the playground.  Some parents follow their kids and watch over them as they play.  Others sit back and let their kids run wild.  Both methods are right, it's just a matter of working out where you are comfortable on the spectrum.

And as for the Cup tomorrow - from a work point of view I'd love Niwot, The Verminator or Older than Time to win.  But since I work for an industry body that markets the Australian thoroughbred that's not that surprising!  Go the Aussie-bred!  This year's Cup, however, is a very global affair, and it's a tricky one to untangle.  The field seems pretty even with lots of horses having a good chance.  I'm not sure what I'll punt just yet!

#8 Kylie Orr

Posted 02 November 2011 - 09:07 AM

Wow, Smyla80, that is an incredibly traumatic experience for your DF and your family. I have a friend who worked in the Acquired Brain Injury section of a road traffic department and she certainly saw some horrific results from high speed injuries. Most of these were from road accidents, rather than extreme sports, so I guess we all take risks each day, it is just how calculated they are. Glad to hear he has made an amazing recovery, even though the effects are still felt daily.

It is a tough one.

I think it is simplistic to say "I'll let my children follow their dreams, whatever they may be" - sure, we'd all like to be that relaxed and in theory, I am. But put that theory to practise and watch my child in a dangerous situation, or a job that is risky every day and perhaps I wouldn't be so calm. Problem is, there are many dangerous jobs around that we think of as fairly standard - bodyguard, police officer, and like Boxers Wife said, nurses etc.

I like some of the other posters ideas that they'd let their children do what they like, but teach them the safest way to tackle it and probably still worry!

Reng - hope you won something yesterday although none of your hopefuls made it through. Maybe next year!

#9 kadoodle

Posted 02 November 2011 - 09:18 AM

My DH was in the army until a "blue on blue" incident left him injured and discharged.  His father and grandfathers were soldiers.  So were both my grandfathers.

I know there's a good chance one or all of my kids will be a part of the ADF.  I want to keep them safe, but it's not my life to call the shots once they're grown.

#10 kpingitquiet

Posted 02 November 2011 - 09:45 AM

QUOTE (Kylie Orr @ 02/11/2011, 09:37 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I think it is simplistic to say "I'll let my children follow their dreams, whatever they may be" - sure, we'd all like to be that relaxed and in theory, I am. But put that theory to practise and watch my child in a dangerous situation, or a job that is risky every day and perhaps I wouldn't be so calm. Problem is, there are many dangerous jobs around that we think of as fairly standard - bodyguard, police officer, and like Boxers Wife said, nurses etc.

I used to process workplace deaths, for a living. Morbid job. My work involved receiving, entering, and analyzing all the workplace deaths for a large 6-state region of the US.

By far, the deadliest jobs in sheer numbers were in trades. Construction workers and neighborhood tree-trimmers, especially. Falls, electrocution, machinery accidents, fires. Other extremely dangerous jobs included people who drove for a living in sales or freight, manufacturing workers, commercial fishermen, and agricultural workers. That's a whole lot of dangerous jobs that most people don't perceive as overtly deadly. These stats hold true in Australia, too. The rate of injury in something like jockeying is definitely right up top, fairly sure it's second only to fishing in Oz, but the same parent who would be terrified of their child being a jockey or cop might think nothing of them becoming a tree surgeon or salesperson.

#11 la di dah

Posted 02 November 2011 - 09:55 AM

I enlisted. My parents, old hippies, were NOT pleased or impressed. My extended family ranged from bemused to shriekingly horrified. I wanted to be a Seabee, which is one of the more dangerous jobs they were letting women do.

I think my being a girl was part of their concern but honestly in my family I think they would have been pretty much the same for a boy.

I was peeved at all the people advising me on how to get safe jobs (I think they thought they were helping) or assuming I wanted that, and I was hoping to go to Iraq or Afghanistan.

I didn't make it that far, I washed out with injury and years later I am still dealing with physical effects to say nothing of the huge slam to my hopes/dreams because I had planned the military thing since I was a kid.

Even getting out didn't mend all the things I remember my aunts/uncles/parents/assorted folks saying to me about it and the very few who were supportive (old men, oddly - the WWII generation is the ONLY generation that came through for me, even the kids my age in my family were blah blah blah why would a woman...) are the ones I had the easiest time relating to afterward.

I don't think not supporting the kid accomplishes much. It can leave a ghost that outlasts the dream.

#12 Magenta Ambrosia

Posted 02 November 2011 - 10:02 AM

Would you let your children learn to drive when they're old enough? That is the most dangerous ambition, most other you can take precautions, but there is no protection against another drivers stupidity or lack of focus.
Death happen,s life is the bit where all the fun stuff is

#13 idignantlyright

Posted 02 November 2011 - 10:08 AM

Well my 7yr old DD was showing her 12yr old sister how to make a slingshot out of a 6pack of poppers, a rubber band and 2 pencils. She was slingshooting nutri grain around the kitchen.

So she may be in for a future in weapons.

#14 reng

Posted 02 November 2011 - 10:18 AM

Before horses, I worked in road maintenance - and I reckon all young people should do a stint on a road crew before learning to drive.  

It's funny the perception about what is safe and what is not.  There are so many road deaths every year, that I think it would be hard to find anyone who doesn't know someone affected by a road death.  And yet we all pile in our cars on a daily basis thinking it to be safe.  It's much safer than flying, yet people are more likely to have a fear of flying.

The Cup: I did have the winner in my trifecta, just not the other two, so not the greatest day on the punt.  We did well on Cox Plate day though and are still in front over the carnival so far.  Not winning the Cup from a work point of view is a challenge for our marketing team (consisting of 3 of us!), and at least we have the mighty Black Caviar to get buyers coming to Australia to spend their luxury money on our local product.

#15 Mrs Dinosaurus

Posted 02 November 2011 - 10:54 AM

Ultimately it's about hoping your kids will be happy (alive, safe - yes, buy happy). There are so many risky things on the road to adulthood you can't shelter them from life and expect them to be happy. We both have strong sporting backgrounds and hope our kids will enjoy sport the same way we do - lots of sport is dangerous but statistically I'm much more worried about sex, drugs, alcohol and driving. If they can get through puberty relatively unscathed I hope whatever risky job or hobby they choose is still safer than dealing with the peer pressure to do really risky things to impress largely unimpressable people.

You can't stop them - hopefully you can support them.

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