Recently my daughters started a sport called knee-boarding. It involves kneeling on a small surfboard-like apparatus, strapping your legs in to the board and holding onto a ski rope behind a speed boat. I grew up water skiing, but have now adopted this new sport along with my daughters.
My older daughter, who is 10, mastered it almost immediately. She is a natural athlete with long strong arms and legs capable of almost anything she puts her mind to. Still, I perch nervously on the back of the boat watching her as she bobs violently on top of the wake. I watch closely for her hand signals, preparing to tell my husband that she is ready to stop, or is down the second her hands leave the rope. My eyes never leave her for a second as I watch her go under the waves and then re-surface seconds later. I hold my arms in the air and wait for her to mimic me. I want to make sure other boat drivers see her. I scan the horizon for other boats anxiously as we circle back around to pick her up. She almost always gets back on the boat with a smile, begging us to let her have one more turn.
This past weekend, my younger daughter tried and succeeded in getting up. I have to admit, I was skeptical. She is not normally as bold as her older sister is. But with her big sister's help, she got up and stayed up for several long runs. The entire time she beamed with pride, grinning from ear to ear with every additional second that she was able to navigate the choppy water. I stood in the back of the boat amazed, cheering and clapping at her accomplishment. When she fell, I immediately jumped into the water and swam towards her, reaching for her little hand to pull her back to the boat.
"I can do it, Mommy," she said with a smile, letting go of my hand and swimming alongside of me.
It occurred to me that this experience is a metaphor for a lot of things our children will do in life. We let them go, even when we are not sure they are ready to go. We watch, and wait anxiously for them to fall and then get up again. We are not only proud that they got up in the first place, but proud that they fell and got up again. I am also proud when I see my old child teaching my younger child a skill and giving her the confidence to do something she might not otherwise have tried. Our ultimate goal is to swim alongside them in life, watching them succeed independently of us, but we are still always nearby, ready to reach out an help.
Yes, I realized, there will be many instances of letting go over and over again. They will fall, our hearts will skip a beat, and then they will get up and try again.
"Did you see me, Mommy," my youngest asks me with a big smile through wet, matted hair me as I help her into the boat. "Did you?"
"I sure did, Baby. I didn't miss a thing, I promise."
Amanda is the mom of two kids, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including one on motherhood called "Smotherhood." Find her here every Monday.