"Where's Luke?" My friend asked me about her son at the neighborhood pool one day earlier this summer. She was not panicked yet, just concerned, a typical feeling for the mother of a young child anytime water is involved. I surveyed the little heads bobbing up and down in the water until I spotted him hanging on a wall not far from the shallow end.
This moment reminded me that as our children grow older, we are finally able to take a deep breath and let them be. I remember that constriction in my chest as I routinely scanned the neighborhood pool looking for my children, that moment of panic when I couldn't immediately locate them, and that feeling of relief as I exhaled after seeing their little bodies come barreling down the slide. I was either in the water with them, or on the edge as they played nearby.
But now, they are accomplished swimmers. They are on swim team and also have extensive experience swimming in the ocean and doing water sports. Now, I can sit at the neighborhood pool and chat or read, still always keeping one eye on the water. But it is not the constant focus required of the parents of young children.
In many ways, I think this is a metaphor for parenting in general. When kids are very young we keep them close, within reach, and allow them to do things only under our very intense supervision.
As they get older, more capable, and more independent, we give them a longer leash, allowing them to do more things on their own as we back away some, keeping our distance, but still keeping our watchful eyes on them even from around the corner. The trick is finding that balance that gives them freedom, but still provides safety and guidance.
It's something I'm still working on...
Amanda Lamb is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including two on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.