One day at dinner, my older son blurted out “The F word is f—!”.
When I was done clutchin’ my pearls, I sat with my mouth slightly agape and my brows raised. Those words hung in the air for a moment, with me wondering if that just happened.
Chris was sleeping before his night shift, so he did not have the honour of hearing this. I took a second to let various thoughts race through my mind on how to handle this new territory. Freak out? Ignore it? Laugh?
After a conversation about using ‘nice’ words versus ‘bad’ words, we continued eating our spaghetti, but my mind was reeling. I thought we had more time before this kind of stuff came to light. Wasn’t he just two, saying his first words?
Then it hit me: he’s in school now. He’s out in the world for a portion of the day, away from the cushy comfort of mom’s hugs and dad’s arms. I can’t monitor every interaction or every thing he over hears on the playground. Our tether is at maximum stretch.
He is discovering there is a whole deep, wide, ocean of a world beyond that safe beach of our home.
And, like we teach him to respect the real waters – how to swim, and being aware of and avoiding possible dangers – we have to teach him that there are dangers and pitfalls in this world. My reaction and motherly desire is to keep him here, to shelter him for all time. I feel like there’s this tug of war in me – wanting to keep him close, but knowing that I have to slack the ties a bit once in a while.
Really, I don’t desire for either of my kids to stay on the safety of the beach forever; I know they will have to experience things and make mistakes, and get hurt even, in the process of living. I just want their dad and me to be the safe place they can swim back to when their arms get tired of treading the waters. I want Jesus to be their beacon when they can’t find the shoreline.
I see Finn’s six year old toes, wading on the shallow waters of the shore. He lets the tiny waves lap up around his small feet. The feet that used to be so soft and pudgy and fat, are now all skin and angular bones. The ankles that were formerly non-existent, are now round knobs that sit above those feet.
He stands there and looks out beyond that safe shore, and wonders what is beyond. He asks questions to himself, silently – how deep is the water? What creatures live below the surface? What does it taste like?
His feet slowly descend in to the wet sand and mud, and before he sinks too deep, walks back inward toward the beach, intending to return to the water to receive his answers.
Image from PhotoPin