The other day EC and I went to the lazy river pool at The University of Alabama. The first few times we went around the river, she kept grabbing the wall along the way. Although she usually swims floatie-free, she was wearing a puddle jumper because her tiny self is too small for the kids tubes and the lazy river it is a lot to handle without any help. Just before the lazy river starts, there is a set of stairs where we would occasionally stop to take a breath, take a break, or fix her goggles. As she stood on the edge of the steps she felt the current from the jets knock her off her feet. Grabbing the handrail, she shouted, “Mommy! I need you!” Rushing over, I reassured her that I was there for her.
I helped her get her balance before we made our way around the river again. The next time we came by the steps she headed straight for the handrail. She clasped both hands around it as her feet flew behind her in the rush of the current. I was waiting for the cry for help, just as she had cried out the time before. She held on for a minute, trying to decide what to do next. And then all of a sudden, I heard her shout, “Mommy! I’m gonna let go and have fun!”
“Ok! Go for it, baby!” I shouted back, without fear or hesitation. She knows how to swim. We taught her how to swim. With the biggest smile on her face, she felt the rush and was swept away to enjoy the ride on the lazy river.
As I replayed her words in my head, I gasped.
Mommy! I’m gonna let go and have fun!
All I can say is thank goodness for big sunglasses because the tears were streaming.
Tomorrow my precious little girl—the one who made me a mommy—will start a new adventure. And I’m really not sure how I feel about it. I’m afraid that she will be swept away in the current. I’m afraid of what this cruel world will teach her. I’m afraid for her to see the world outside the sheltered walls we’ve built for her. I’m afraid to let go because I don’t want her to lose her innocence, her sense of wonder, her imagination and her loving, gentle heart.
But I have to remember, she knows how to swim. We taught her how to swim.
As I prepare to watch her float away, I can’t help but wonder, did I teach her well enough? Did I teach her to be strong enough? To swim for her life when the current tries to pull her down? Did I teach her the importance of taking a break to catch your breath? Or when to swim and when to float? Did I teach her where all the handrails are in life that she can hold on to? And that I’m always there if she needs to cry out for help?
The answer? Well, no. I didn’t teach her everything she will need to know in life. But I taught her everything I could. I have to trust that it is enough. Because if I taught her how to handle every situation she will face, she would never find her own stroke. She would never have the confidence to let go and have fun.
I don’t want to let go. I want to hold on, let her ride in the float with me, be there every time she needs me. I want to shelter her view of the world, not let her see its truth. I want to let her become who she is meant to be without outside influence or pressure. I want her to believe there is so much good in the world, to keep her faith and her family first. I know she has so much to give, yet I’m not ready to give her to the world.
But I have to remember, she knows how to swim. We have worked so hard to teach her to swim. And most importantly, I have to be her biggest cheerleader when she says, “Mommy, I’m gonna let go and have fun!”
For years, I heard the following poem every fall on the Kidd Kraddick in the Morning Show, always thinking this was a long way off for me. And yet somehow, it is my turn…
World, I bequeath to you today one little girl in a crisp blue dress with two brown eyes and a happy laugh that ripples all day long, and a flash of dark blonde hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs. I trust you’ll treat her well.
She’s slipping out of the backyard of my heart this morning and skipping off down the street to her first day at school.
And never again will she be completely mine.
Prim and proud, she’ll wave a young and independent little hand this morning, and say, “Bye, Mommy!” and walk with little-lady steps to the school’s front door.
Now, she will learn to stand in lines, and wait by the alphabet for her name to be called.
She will learn to tune her little-girl ears for the sound of school bells and deadlines.
She will learn to giggle and gossip. And to look at the ceiling in a disinterested way when the little boy across the aisle sticks out his tongue.
Now she will learn to be jealous. And she will learn how it is to feel hurt inside. And now she will learn how not to cry. No longer will she have time to sit on the front porch steps on a summer day with her Daddy and watch an ant run across a crack in the sidewalk.
Now she will worry about important things, like grades, and what dresses to wear, and whose best friend is whose. And the magic of books and learning will soon replace the magic of her blocks and dolls.
And she’ll find her new heroes. For five full years I’ve been her sage and Santa Claus, her pal and playmate, her mommy and friend. Now, she’ll learn to share her worship and adoration with her teachers (which is only right).
No longer will her Mommy and Daddy be the smartest, and greatest in the world. Today, when the first school bell rings, she’ll learn how it is to be a member of the group—with all its privileges, and, of course, its disadvantages, too.
She’ll learn in time that it’s not considered cool to laugh out loud, or make funny faces, or kiss dogs, or collect rocks from the park, or name all of her dolls and say goodnight to each one before she goes to sleep.
Today, she’ll begin to learn for the first time that all who smile at her are not her friends. And I’ll stand on the porch and watch her start out on the long, long journey to becoming a woman.
So world, I bequeath to you today one little girl in a crisp blue dress with two brown eyes and a happy laugh that ripples all day long, and a flash of dark blonde hair that bounces in the sunlight when she runs.
I trust you’ll treat her well.