There are times in every parent’s life when they stay up at night worrying about their child, whether that stress is concrete and real or completely imagined. Now put yourself in the shoes of Monica Aikins, and imagine watching as your husband, Luke Aikins, sky-dives 25,000 feet. Without a parachute. While your 4-year-old son looks on.
Sweating yet? For Monica, it’s all just a normal part of her family’s happy life together. Her husband Luke is a professional sky diver, BASE jumper and pilot who has leaped out of planes 18,000 times and recently made history as the first person to ever survive jumping from a plane at 25,000 feet without a parachute. Yes, on purpose. The challenge saw him plunging through the air in California for what would have been two of the longest minutes of most people’s lives, before he expertly flipped onto his back and landed in a 100 x 100-foot net.
“When Chris Talley had called Luke the first time and told him about this project and asked if he or if he knew anyone who would be interested in this stunt, he got off the phone and then told me, and we actually had a good laugh in the kitchen," Monica Aikins told SheKnows. "But then I could see him thinking about it a bunch and drawing ideas on paper. I think I knew then, maybe even before he knew it, that he was going to be the one to execute this jump. So when he told me he wanted to do this and what were my thoughts, I had said, 'I knew you were going to do it about a week ago!'"
Neither Luke nor Monica is a stranger to sky diving, and Monica herself has jumped out of planes thousands of times. For them, giving birth to son Logan didn’t stop them from what some call a risky endeavor, because sky diving is so much more to them than a daring feat you perform only once in a lifetime while on vacation in some exotic locale.
"I guess for many it may seem like a risky sport. In my opinion, many of those opinions are based on false knowledge," Monica says. "How many of the people that are making that opinion really know anything about the sport? Do they just hear 'sky diving' and automatically make an assumption that it's risky without actually fully being educated about the sport? I think, just like any other sport or activity, it can be as risky or as safe as you are willing to make it. Some people may think that driving a car is risky. But we make that calculated risk every day to drive our cars to work, knowing that people die on a daily basis driving in them."
Sky diving is such an important part of their lives that it's the only way of life with which Logan is familiar. "For Luke and I, it's our lifestyle," Monica says. "I would say that we are an aviation-based family. Our son Logan is around sky diving almost on a daily basis, and if I were to ask him what he wants for dinner, he would say, ‘Let's fly out to dinner, Mom!’ I don’t think he has any idea that how we fly out to dinner is how most people drive to dinner."
Of course, your routine sky dive is one thing — when it came time to make a call about Luke's latest and historic parachute-less jump, Logan was on both parents' minds.
"Of course Logan always came up in our discussions," Monica says. "And truthfully, maybe not at first, because everything was just speculation on how to do this jump and can it be executed properly. I don’t think we actually started to talk about Logan until later in the project and maybe until the very last week or so. We were always up front with him with all the information about the jump. He watched the tests drops of the weighted metal sled into the net and would watch Luke practice jumping above the light system and then open his parachute. He’s 4 — to him, this was Dad at ‘work.’"
Monica and Luke met in high school, but she says they didn't really connect until years later, when both were coaching separate volleyball teams and met again at a charity volleyball camp event. Prior to meeting Luke, Monica didn't have experience with sky diving, but she became curious about it at around 16 or 17. It wasn't until she was 23 that Luke accompanied her on her first tandem sky diving trip — she became so hooked that she started the static-line progression (sky diving lessons) the following week.
This couple might be on the same page when it comes to sky diving and involving their son in their world, but that doesn’t mean everyone else understands their way of life. After Luke’s story made headlines everywhere this week, plenty of people came forward to criticize the Aikins family for allowing Logan to witness what could have been a devastating moment had something happened to his father during the jump, as well as for their career choice. They questioned whether parents should take these kinds of risks after having children. Monica says she doesn't care one bit what people say or think because the negativity is coming from people who don't know her, her family or what their lifestyle is all about.
"In my opinion, there was no question that I would have Logan there for the jump," Monica says. "If I wasn’t 100 percent sure that Luke [was] going to land into that net, Logan, Luke nor I would have gone to California to make and witness the jump. Luke and I would talk daily on his progress, and I have been there all along to witness the testing and his preparation for the jump, so I guess you could say that this jump became our new lifestyle."
That isn't to say the Aikins didn't have any apprehensions about this jump — or harbor those same thoughts many moms have when faced with a stressful situation involving their children. "As we flew down in our plane to California for this event, I sat in the back of the plane, and my mind was going all over the place," she says. "I thought about what if this happened… and what if this happens — what will I do? I guess trying to set my mind around the worst-case scenario to the 'just broke a bone' — which, by the way, I would be laughing at, because it would be so minor — to the 'all went well' scenario. I knew that no matter what, good or bad, our lives would be altered after this trip."
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