Bittersweet Parenting –August 2015
I can’t say that I was at the top of my high school class or the model military family child during my formative years. For the most part, my brothers and I were more curious about what we could get away with during and after school. With years spent under my mother’s exhaustive watch while Dad was at sea, we had plenty of time to experience life in the 70s, both good and bad.
Still, my parents’ foundations were strong and their belief in goodness and honesty was always apparent. They never hesitated to share their views on right from wrong and always held us accountable. My mother, who worked as a nurse, rarely missed an opportunity to strategically straighten us out and explain how quickly things can go wrong, which instilled caution, safety and respect for life. The love she had for her three boys was unwavering, but never got in her way when we crossed the lines of good and evil.
Yet, it wasn’t until I became an ad hoc parent when I married into a family with two children that I was suddenly aware of how difficult parenting was and keeping our kids out of real harm’s way. Helicopter parenting was a foreign thought to most in my neighborhood. I was a “latchkey kid” that never wore seat belts and swam in any and all dubious bodies of water, including mud pits; we handmade most of our toys out of rope, nails, boards and the occasional bottle rocket.
Now that I was raising two boys of my own and two stepsons, disasters and mistakes were always right around the corner. The only difference was that I was present, at least when I physically could be. One lesson I learned the hard way is that we are not always in control, and no matter what, the divine universe often has its own plan. I can’t help but believe that certain things we instill in our children may be exactly what protects them when we are not around.
I was reminded of this one summer day when I pulled up to the beach to check on my two teenage sons, who had talked me into letting them go surfing a little while before they had to come home. They had been in the Junior Lifeguard program for two years prior, so I was confident of their ability.
As I arrived to pick them up, I came upon a swarm of fire engines and ambulances. As I approached the rescue team in the water, with no sign of my sons, except for one of their surfboards splashing up against the shoreline and the other being held by a complete stranger at the water’s edge, my heart began to pound, nervous beads of sweat forming on my forehead. I began to get nauseous as I envisioned the worst. After running up to the chief in charge to learn what I hesitated to know, I was relieved to find out the boys were okay. In fact, they were the one’s that actually rescued three other grown men from drowning. I went from sheer terror to elation in a matter of seconds.
At that moment I understood what my own mother went through countless times back in the 70s…her prophetic words rang in my head: “Someday, you’ll understand.” This was one of those bittersweet moments when as a parent, you are in awe of their heroism, but also overwhelmed by fear of what might have happened.
This month’s focus on Parenting with Presence puts the importance of allowing kids to be kids, parenting with trust, tolerance and few simple techniques. As students head back to school this month, it seems like a perfect time to rediscover our impact in our children’s lives and discover new ways we can make a difference. Be available, listen, ask questions and wait patiently for their answers. You might be surprised to learn you did a great job.