On Being a Parent
I was watching the kids play on adjacent camp sites, smiling as I listened to the giggles and remembering as I watched the way their bodies moved in strange and fluid ways. It made me very aware of how stiff and achy my body feels – especially in the damp, rainy weather we have been having.
Maybe this old frame of mind also made me aware of how young the parents look; how much energy and how well their bodies work. Then I remember that when my kids were the age of theirs, I was in my early 30’s. I had lots of energy to keep up with the work and play that goes into having children and creating a family. I didn’t realize what I was giving to my children at the time, but now I do as I watch a new generation of parents.
Later that day I was sitting on the rocky shore, waiting for the sunset, when two young boys came running down to water’s edge, dropped their life jackets and towels, and started into the water. They stopped ankle deep with some guttural sounds that translated to cold.
Dad soon followed and the youngest one asked Dad to carry him on his back. Dad hoisted him up and they slowly started walking out on the stone ledges, stepping down into deeper and deeper water.
The water was really cold, not the 28 degrees Celsius (80 F) the father had laughingly assured me it was when I spoke to him. The older son started making noises about wanting to go back and his father said, in a voice that closed off discussion, that they were going in. Reading between the lines, I would guess that the boys had begged to go swimming, maybe even harassed their dad, and now he was going to make them live with their decision. But not alone, he was with them.
They walked out a ways and all of a sudden they were in the sun that was setting behind the Bruce Peninsula. The beauty of their bodies warmed in the evening glow, against the cold blue of the water, took my breath away. I started snapping. It was only later that I saw the intimacy in those magical moments. To appreciate what I saw click on any photo to enlarge.
I thought a long time about what I witnessed. We teach our children so much by our relationships with them. As I vicariously participated in this experience, from the warmth of the shore, I heard how Dad taught them to follow through on decisions made, to persevere even when the going gets uncomfortable, and to carefully plot a course. What I wasn’t able to feel was the warmth of Dad’s hug, the kiss planted in my hair, and the elation that we had been victorious. This is truly priceless, but I hadn’t made the investment, I had stayed on the shore!