Summertime often includes sun-drenched days filled with ice cream dripping down chins, lounging at the beach, and regular routines thrown out the window. And in our home, summer usually means…swimming lessons.
My kids take to the water with their distinct personalities. One swims with ease, barely looking over her shoulder to see if we are watching. Another kid jumps in, screaming with glee…but can’t swim a stroke. And finally, one child sticks to the steps, content to stay glued to the side of the pool.
That is…until this year. The kid who never leaves the pool’s edge looked at me and declared, “I am ready to take off my floaties.” One by one, the floaties were thrown to the side, and this miracle of a child started to swim. I almost blurted out, “Do you need me? Do you want me to hold you?” But I bit my tongue, forcing myself to let him exert his independence, forcing myself to let go.
The Talmud explains that parents are required to teach their children specific skills. One listed is the skill of swimming. I always thought that we teach a child to swim for sheer survival. Lest they are struggling or stuck within a current, a parent’s responsibility is to pass on the ability to reach dry land. But as my children learn to swim, I never expected to receive my own lesson in “growing up.” For as they learn how to survive in the “real world,” I too learn how to cope as my babies need me just a little bit less.
Of course, I realize our children always need us in some capacity. I am told, “little kids, little problems, big kids, bigger problems.” But the lesson remains the same. When we are pushed away, do we furiously reach back, trying to gain a semblance of our accustomed parenting roles? Or when told to give some space, do we willingly inch away? Knowing that just as they are learning how to live, we’re doing a little growing up ourselves?
It will certainly be a summer of diving, doggy paddles, sidestrokes and blowing bubbles. And now, a summer of understanding that sometimes, being the best kind of parent means letting go…just a little.