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Letting go and allowing our kids to be themselves

July 14, 2014

My family and I recently went to a water park and had a great day. We swam in the wave pool, floated in the lazy river, and played on the water slides in the kid area. The weather was great and the crowds were low - it was a perfect family fun day.

Then, my husband spotted the “big slides.” He announced that he wanted to go check them out. Cool, I thought. No problem. This was a small water park and there were only a handful of tall slides. I figured my son and I would watch and cheer him on from the ground.

We trekked over to the slides and I slowly realized that my husband wasn’t the only one that was excited. My son was, too. I figured our son would not be tall enough to go on the slides, so I didn’t really think much of it. I mean, as we got closer, I realized they were much bigger than they looked from far away. I remember thinking, Oh, I hope he’s not too disappointed when he sees he’s not tall enough yet.

Um, yeah, right. Turns out our eight-year-old was just tall enough to ride not only the taller, twisty turny-type slides, but also the sixty-foot, nearly 90-degree-straight-drop-to-the-ground slide. Fantastic. My husband, of course, had his sights set on that exact slide. “That’s the one I’m heading for,” he announced. Our son chimed in, “Me too, Dad, me too!” They looked at me, asking if I was going. Going on that?! Yeah, okay, I’m a cool Mom. I can do that. I walked with them, my stomach churning. My nerves were a mess. Was this a good idea? Does it seem safe? We got to the first flight of stairs (there were seven more) and I found myself stopping. I informed them that I was sitting this one out. I just could not do it. They smiled at me, waved, and kept climbing. I felt awful.

That was the first time I could ever remember backing out of a thrill ride in my life. Worse yet, I had gone on those exact same slides when I was a younger version of myself - many times. For some reason, this time, I just could get my feet on those stairs. My stomach was in knots and I nervously walked to the front of the slides, where I could watch them slide down.

I felt nervous and panicky. I could just barely see my husband and son, standing in the line on the stairs, at least fifty feet in the air. I watched them get closer and closer to the top, and finally spotted my son, my baby, at the top of the tower, standing at the helm of a sixty-foot water slide. I couldn’t swallow, and I couldn’t breathe. I was terrified, but forced a huge grin on my face. I waved over-enthusiastically to him, knowing he couldn’t see me anyway. I saw him sit down and could just barely make out him crossing his legs and crossing his arms over his chest.

For a second, I thought I might die.

I was so worried that he would get hurt, or that he would be scared. I feared he would hate it. I hoped he wouldn’t decide he was too scared to go and would have to walk all the way down the steps. I wanted him to be safe. I wanted him to be brave. I wanted him to have fun.

Then, just like that, he went. A few seconds later, he was at the bottom. I watched him stand up and scanned his face frantically for his reaction. He was laughing and grinning. He put his fists up in the air, Rocky style. He loved it!

My stomachache disappeared. My muscles relaxed. I hugged him and breathed a sigh of relief. He was not only fine; he was in heaven. My husband joined us a moment later, smiling a mile wide. I could relax now; everyone was safe and happy.

“Let’s go again!” were the first words they both said. Ugh, really?! My son took my hand and said, “Come on, Mom, you will love it.” I realized that I felt fine. Now, the slides didn’t look so horrible. My stomach was good and my breathing was normal. I looked down at him, smiled, and said, “Let’s go.”

We did go, and it was really fun. I realized that it wasn’t the slide that terrified me; it was the idea of my son doing something so daring.

I wanted to stop him from going, but knew that I shouldn’t.

I needed to let him be himself and try new things.

What I ended up doing instead was stopping myself. When I realized that he was safe and he enjoyed himself, I guess I felt like I could enjoy myself, too.

Who was this person, my son, anyway? He was growing up so fast and was so daring. Someone who reminded me so much of myself, his Dad, and then someone who seemed like no one I’d ever known, all at the same time. He admitted to me on the way up the stairs that he was nervous at first, but he was happy that he did it and, not to worry, that it was all going to be worth it. Hmm. Just like all good things in life. Just like parenting and just like marriage. Thanks, kiddo. I needed to hear that.

Happy Summer!

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