Growth Spurts: Setting Sail
By Carrie Bevell Partridge
This month my firstborn child will graduate from high school, and, as all parents of seniors, I am wondering how we got here so quickly. In lieu of sadness, though, we are choosing to celebrate Callie’s graduation, so she and I went on a cruise together over Spring Break! Just the two of us. It was such a wonderful, memorable time together.
Being together outside of our normal family/household setting, it seemed easier to feel like friends rather than parent and child. Of course, not having to worry about housework, schoolwork, schedules, or anything other than our personal relaxation for a week took off quite a bit of pressure, too. We did have to make some decisions together, but let’s be honest — those decisions revolved around where to lounge, what to eat next, how late to sleep, and how many soft serve ice cream cones were acceptable to consume per day. Oh, and which waterslide to go down next. However, that decision was an easy one for me, since the options involved twisty tube slides or a free fall slide, in which there was a countdown and a floor that dropped right out from under you just before it shot you up and around and out! (I was brave and did that one once and only once. After surviving the experience, I had to admit to a little girl near the slides that, yes, I was the one she heard screaming so loudly.) So yeah, lots of important decisions were made on this trip.
Callie and I did engage in plenty of deep conversations, too – conversations about our family, faith, college, future plans, relationships, and other life topics. Having abundant time for these uninterrupted talks was truly a gift.
I’ve been slowly coming to terms with the fact that Callie is, in many ways, now an adult. The first time it hit me the hardest was when, while at a doctor’s appointment with her, Callie realized that she didn’t need me to sign her paperwork, since she was now 18. She doesn’t need me! [Gasp!] This thought is one that all parents experience – often mournfully – when faced with milestones throughout their children’s lives. It is a recurring reminder that our children are supposed to become less and less dependent on us. And their shift toward independence doesn’t have to feel like a personal rejection. It is, in fact, a very natural and very good thing, even though it can be hard.
Before the cruise, my husband and I joked about how long it would take before Callie got lost on the ship. Neither she nor I are exactly known for our keen sense of direction, but I figured I’d be taking the lead navigationally. However, she was the one who ended up leading me around the ship! She also had no problem taking the initiative in making calls or talking to staff members when we had questions. And my girl was not afraid to get up in front of a bunch of strangers multiple times and belt out some karaoke! (She had a little fan club by the end of the week.) It was all good to see.
If you’ve ever been on a big ship, you know that different areas on deck offer different views. If you stand at the back of the ship, you can see where you’ve been and just how quickly it’s all fading into the distance. It can feel a bit melancholy, really. If you stand on the sides, you just sort-of relax and enjoy the scenery. It lends itself to personal reflection, and you find yourself lingering a bit longer there, savoring it all. If you stand at the front of the ship, you get a feeling of exhilaration and anticipation about where you’re heading. It feels adventurous and exciting, even if the waters ahead are unfamiliar.
Parents, as we watch our children grow and become less dependent on us, let’s make sure we spend time on all sides of the deck. Each viewpoint is important, and each contains beauty. If we find ourselves spending too much time staring solemnly into the fading distance from the back of the ship, we might need to remind ourselves to visit the front of the ship, too. That’s probably where our kids are anyway.