We want our kids to be safe, but we also want them to grow up loving the rivers and experiencing challenges. So, even though we could talk ourselves out of even leaving the house because of risks like bad drivers, ticks, lightning, bears, strangers, and E. coli, we bravely venture forth every day. Life and rivers will always be full of risks, but fear is a garbage emotion. Unless we want to live in a bubble-wrapped house. We have to face risk, whether on the river or off.
Before I started writing this, I talked to several other moms who come from a river guiding background. I wanted to hear what these decisions look like in their family, and how they manage risk. The answer that stood out to me the most came from a badass mom of two young boys:
“I think managing risk on the river is the same as it is with backcountry skiing. It’s the choices you make before you start the trip which matters the most. You have to do the research, set your goals and know your deal breakers because in the moment, it’s impossible to make a clear-headed decision.”
Our family is a bit of an extreme example of risk management with three small kids, ages six, three and almost-two. Tempered by two parents with a very strong background in river-safety, here is a list of the questions we ask ourselves when deciding what trip works for us, and the (almost) certified, (practically) guaranteed, (not quite) fool-proof Risk Score System.
For today’s risk-management questionnaire, I’m going to use the not-so-hypothetical trip that we just canceled due to high water: A three-night float down Ruby Horsethief Canyon. I’ll ask the question, explain my thoughts, and give each answer a plus or minus point.