Climbing the monkey bars of parenthood


swing-1188132_640When my daughter was five or six-years old, she used to like to climb the ladder to the monkey bars or the hanging ropes at the local playground. She’d take a step or two, look back at me, and then go back to the ladder. One of her feet would inevitably get tangled or come off a bar and she’d come perilously close to falling, until she’d regain control again, and go back to climbing.

I would still be picking up my heart off the ground and she’d be ten steps ahead of me. She’d jump down from her high perch and run to the slide or the merry-go-round or some other part of the playground. Of course, I would run after her. I liked to be close enough that I could catch her if she lost her footing and fell, but far enough away that I wasn’t interfering with her fun. It was a delicate balance.

I’m finding years later, it’s still a delicate balance.

Close to home

playground-2263827_640Two of my kids are grown now and one is well on his way, but the balance most certainly has changed. When my daughter told us at a small little breakfast joint one Spring day about her decision to apply for the Peace Corps, she wasn’t asking us for permission. She wasn’t asking for us to weigh-in with our thoughts. Instead, she was telling us how she was going to be spending her time over the next two years. (She had kept us informed every step of the way, but ultimately it was her decision.)

When my oldest son decided to enlist in the military and invited us to speak to his recruiter, my wife and I were excited. Before the meeting, we joked that we couldn’t wait to get all of our questions, that had been bugging us, answered. We were like two little kids giddy with excitement. We promised each other that we would come out with real answers.

Within seconds of the meeting, though, we realized that the meeting had nothing to do with us. Our son set it up out of respect for us. We were no longer in the picture. He wasn’t a minor. He didn’t need our permission. Oh sure the recruiter treated us nicely, but his attention was rightfully on our son.

Diapers to paying taxes

web-539757_640This is new ground for us. With the blink of an eye, my kids have become adults.

While it’s strange to think of them as out on their own, it’s still neat to see the little ways that we still matter to them. My son recently spent a week out in the field training. I’m sure he was tired. I’m sure he had other things on his mind, but he still found time to text us to see if we were around and then to call us. He told us that he had a bunch of chores that he had to get done and limited time to do them, but he wanted us to know that he was thinking of everyone.

The same goes for our youngest son. Thanks to his age, you would naturally expect that we might still need to rein him in. Still in high school, he came running up to us at his high school’s American Cancer Society Relay for Life event. If friends and other walkers at the Relay contributed enough money, he offered to shave his head. He had talked about doing this for months. In the middle of the relay, he ran up to us out of breath, surrounded by a large group of friends. “You guys are okay with me doing this, right? If so, we’re going to do it at 3:30.”

handle-1108594_640He didn’t have to check-in with us, but he did.

And finally, back to that little girl climbing up the ladder, she has a part-time job until she leaves in the fall. She’s her own woman now. She’s got her own responsibilities. She could be doing anything she wants, but she still checked in recently before heading out to visit a high school friend.

She didn’t have to, she didn’t need to, but it’s still nice that she did.

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