Never a simple process when it comes to our babies. Figuring out what is in their best interest or how far to go can give any age gray hairs.
It’s an easy answer when our children are little. Holding their hand while they struggle to stand, and then ultimately walk. Feeling it slip away as they move forward, alone.
Pushing the bike while still holding on as they begin to sense the excitement of success and the wind on their face. Just beginning to understand what it means to fly while still screaming,
“Don’t let go!”
With each accomplishment, we’re in awe and they are filled with pride.
Its exhilarating. Seeing their faces light up, knowing it only gets better.
I remember traveling up to the mountain for my daughters first snowfall. It brought back my own childhood memories. My Dad grew up in Minnesota and swore he’d never see that white stuff again. But for his kids, he relented. Sitting high atop his shoulders, feeling the white flakes hit my face, I felt invincible. That’s what parents do, they make us feel we can accomplish anything when they’re by our side. No matter how new or different, it’s just another adventure.
I couldn’t put my 4 year old daughter on my shoulders so I decided to let her fly, in a different way, down ice. We had bought a plastic sled with the hopes it would seat the two of us. But after numerous attempts it became clear that the slope wasn’t steep enough and together we were too heavy to allow any speed. It was more a slow crawl. She begged me to let her go by herself, sure she could handle it.
I backed down the hill several feet and waited. Watching her get situated, preparing herself mentally. I could see the gears moving, the pep talk reverberating in her head, sounding a lot like Mommy.
“You can do this,”
I heard wafting down from the top.
And then she did. Alone she took off far faster then either of us had expected. Shooting down the expanse right at me. There was a small dip in the end before it leveled out for yards, the reason I chose this spot. At that exact place she took flight, leaving the ground by a foot and passing me by- to thankfully land safely at the bottom. Like any parent I had been ready for the perfect photo op and just happened to catch that fleeting moment of glee and wonder when she had only air beneath her. It’s a second in time that shows a child pushing her boundaries, memorialized forever.
Years later we were at a famous amusement park. By then she’d grown accustomed to crazy and wild rides, actually seeking them out. At this point in time she still wanted Mom by her side, not just to protect but to share with. One ride touted as the scariest ride in the country was called “Superman.” It climbed 400 feet into the sky in seconds at a 90 degree angle. It stopped for a second then shot backward to the starting point. All in the blink of an eye. She begged me to go even as she had to watch repeatedly before finally attempting it. Once strapped in and ready to fly upward she stared screaming at the top of her lungs,
“SSSTTTOOOOOOPPP… I don’t want to go!”
A cry that broke my heart and made me search in a split second for ways to ease her fears.
Then at the top, hanging for just an instant she was now begging me to get her off the ride. Shrieking not to go back down. We were so restrained I couldn’t even hold her hand, comfort her, just scream back equally as loud,
“It’s ooooookkkkkk, we’ll be down …..” And then we were.
All the while I felt like the worst parent ever. How could I have given in to her pleas? Clearly she wasn’t ready!
Once down and unhooked I rushed to her side panicked and ready to embrace and console her. Swearing every step of the way we’d never do anything like this again. I feared she’d been mortally wounded, scarred badly. But instead of tears she looked up at me with the widest smile possible, bitten by the adrenalin bug and whooped,
“That was awesome, let’s go again!”
If the ride hadn’t killed me her whirlwind swings would!
That was one of many times I had to come to terms with the dichotomy of childhood. Incredibly scared while still wanting to experience everything. Constantly walking that fine line between holding back out of fear and charging ahead in spite of it. That’s why we’re here. To decide when and how and for how long, until they can choose for themselves. Setting the boundaries and helping them approach each limit and grow beyond them until there are none.
That’s what parents do, we let our children fly. Safely, securely, until they no longer need the tethers and can fly solo.
For her 18th birthday she decided to follow in Mom’s footsteps and sky dive. Where I had pushed off the wing of a plane at 3,000 feet to slowly have a static line unwind my parachute, she did a tandem jump from 10,000 feet. She immediately felt the rush of free falling from the sky thousands of feet before dropping quietly to the ground. I knew it was inevitable from all the stories I’d recounted over the years but I couldn’t watch. I was there in spirit when she touched down and called, still brimming with the rush at what she’d done.
Later that same year she packed up and moved into a college dorm. The inevitable transition for those continuing on the path to adulthood – moving out- and a bitter sweet moment for most parents. Swelling with pride and joy at knowing we did our jobs while also acknowledging they are moving on without us.
Then learning, just because they can, doesn’t mean they do. For most of us that tether with our parents remains forever. It’s a comforting connection that stays with us even after they’ve passed on. That’s what true love does. It binds us together and makes us feel secure, always.