Last week we were on vacation. It was heavenly…sunshine, warm temperatures, sandy beaches, no cooking or cleaning and lots of rest and relaxation. Perfection!
And then, early Monday evening, we flipped on the TV and learned about the Boston bombings. In complete shock and disbelief, we were glued to the news for the next two hours. How could something like this happen? An 8 year-old child and two young women killed and hundreds injured and maimed! What kind of world are we living in?
Although it was a completely different scenario, I started having flashbacks to Sandy Hook just a few months earlier. Incidents like this kick my mama-bear protective streak into full gear. I want to lock my family in the house and throw away the key so nothing bad will happen to them.
The next morning, I was looking through the photos that I took the previous day at the beach when I came across this one.
At first glance, it’s a silly picture of my knees and the beach…but as I looked closer, it struck me that this photo was a metaphor for our jobs as parents. We are the custodians of these little people who we set free into the wonderful-scary place that is our world.
See that speck in the distance – the one with his arms raised joyfully as he runs towards the surf, that’s my son. He’s running away from me with vigor – without a care in the world – while I stay behind and watch and imagine all the dangers lurking under the ocean’s surface. Right before he started to sprint away, I’d reminded him about undertow (“Remember to swim WITH it, not AGAINST it.”), told him not to go in above his thighs, and asked him to try to stay near other swimmers because he was not with a swim buddy. Then he left…and I didn’t take my eyes off him.
But he won’t always be in my sight-line. From the moment that we squeeze our babies out from between our parted knees (or C-sectioned abdomens, or lift them into our adoptive arms), they are leaving us. It’s our job to let them go. First they crawl. Then they walk. Then they run. Then they drive. Along the way, we keep them safe. We wrestle them into car seats. We strap helmets and padding on them when they play sports. We explain the dangers of smoking, drugs and alcohol. We show them that the world is an incredible place and tell them they can go anywhere…do anything, encouraging them to explore and revel in the joy of living. But we’re still scared, because we know the undertow is out there.
Can we really every keep them safe? Maybe. Maybe not. Can we give them the tools they need to safely navigate the world? Yes, I think so. Can we let them live fully and joyfully in the moment and experience all the beauty that that this life has to offer? Definitely. I’m going to frame this picture and put it on my desk to remind me to do just that – arms raised and running toward life.