A daughter of beach bums, decades have passed at the ocean enjoying glorious Southern California summers. I spend more time buoyant, with cold salt water lapping around me, than otherwise. You learn not to be skittish when the lightening-fast sand sharks and dolphins swim near. Growing up, we lived to spend time at Santa Monica Beach. It’s the most familiar of landmarks for me. To this day, there is a gentleman who sets up shop right next to “our spot” that has been doing so since I can remember-at least the last 25 years. And since my boys are mostly summer babies they have come here for the first time only days or weeks old, the fourth generation of beach babies napping beneath the Palm Trees.
My brother used to “encourage” me to take the big waves.
As the younger sister, I felt the need to make my presence felt and so I always complied. The mammoth wall of water would begin to build and there I was far beyond the spot where my feet could touch the sand any longer, ready to head into the surge, up and over the crest pounding below like a rag-doll, then popping up like a soggy Jack-in-the-box, ready for the next pummeling.
I think that’s why I’m the risk taker I am today. Not too much is daunting to me-and it started in the ocean.
Sunday after church was a beach day for our family of five. The fog was thick when we arrived. The clouds didn’t annoy me. Yes, it was our one beach day of the week and most people might crave the sunshine, but for me, any day at the beach is a good day. And in typical Santa Monica fashion, before long, the sun broke through and decided to stay.
My husband Guy and I have the long march through the soft sand towards the water down to a science. We try to pack light but the combination of our beach cart, an Ergo Carrier for the youngest on my back, and two littles who can now pull a small wagon of beach toys makes the trek much more doable than in years past.
I realized this summer that we are heading into a new stage of life. For the first time in 7 years I am neither pregnant, nursing, nor managing a baby. Our people have legs that can walk on their own for a good length! The boys can help carry sand toys down the beach! And they can walk halfway down the strand to toss trash for me while I load up towels.
And…gulp…our sons are making their way out to the big waves. Alone.
This weekend was the first time that they waded out up to their chests to body surf. At ages 3 and 6, they seemed especially small against the miles of water stretched out like glass beyond them. I stood at the water’s edge with my two year old and watched.
The boys were delighted by the waves, heading into the crest to body surf as I had done myself in this very spot at their ages. But the big moment for me was when I realized that I was not shouting to them to come in closer, to be careful, to stay nearer the shore.
I looked out past my personal comfort zone for their safety and God gave me a sense of peace. They were drifting out beyond my control, but they were safe enough. Happy. Able to handle the waves. They were delighted.
So I relaxed.
It was a bittersweet moment for me to stand there, looking out over the dark blue waters with the ethereal sun shimmering down a path on the water, watching my sons relish the Creation that God had gifted us to enjoy.
There was no leash tied to their ankle that I could yank in a moment of panic. But I intrinsically felt the strings of my heart being gently pulled and lengthened to allow them to become boys who take measured risks. All of it part of the natural progression of easing into God’s design for boys becoming men.
I can’t tie a rope around their ankles forever. Even though they are still very young, I’m seeing that it is good for them to venture out beyond the known. And it’s good for me. I don’t want my own fears to tether them. I want them to rise and sometimes fall. I want them to ride the waves and find their own boundaries. I’ll always be near, God willing, to dive in for the rescue, but I’m trying not to do so prematurely.
Guy and I packed our wet and sand encrusted belongings at the end of a magnificently peaceful day and walked back to our car. And though the passersby on tandem bikes, skateboarders showing off for the crowd, or those who walked their tiny dogs along the boardwalk may have been oblivious to it, we were a family who had entered a new chapter yesterday. I felt a new satisfaction beyond the one that comes from spending a day in paradise. It was the contentment that comes from knowing that these boys are growing day by day into men, and the knowledge that I can let them.
YOUR TURN! Have you also entered a new chapter where you are letting go of your tether? At what point did you realize that you were entering a new "chapter" with your kids?
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