When our children are born, we embark on a dance with them. In the first few days, weeks and months, we take the lead and hold them tightly, swaying and rocking, teaching them to trust us and accept our style. Then little by little, we begin alternating between holding them close and giving them a bit of space to call their own. When this dance goes well, both parent and child instinctively understand the ebb and flow and accept its pace and rhythm. It does not always go well, though; there are times we want to cling when they are ready to pull away. We will step on each others toes from time to time.
I have danced this dance with our two sons; stubbing my toe a few times, learning along the way when to let them take the lead, and blinking back the proud tears when the music ended and they slipped out of my arms and into adulthood.
And now my mother/daughter dance with Swimmer Girl is nearing the end of our song. Next year at this time, we will be anticipating graduation and making preparations for her to be off to college in the fall.
Our dance has been nearly flawless – we have rarely found ourselves at odds over how it should go. I count my blessings for that; I know all too well that the teenage years can be a terribly tangled and tortured dance.
She and I spent last weekend in Atlanta, just us girls. We took in a late-night showing of the “Hunger Games” movie on its opening night, shopped until we dropped on Saturday, then finished with a Sunday morning stroll in beautiful Piedmont Park and lunch with a new friend of mine. But more than the things we did was the time we had together. We laughed, we cried, we talked at length about our relationship with God and with each other; about our hopes for the future, our fears and worries. And I promised her that for as long as she wants, every so often I’ll come scoop her up for a quick turn around this dance floor.
For parents of babies and young children, all I can say is enjoy the dance. It will be both the longest and shortest dance of your life. And never forget with each step, you’re teaching them how to dance. Listen carefully for the changes in music; they are subtle cues to give them space to learn how to lead, a little at a time. And when you take the final turn with them, you can be proud that you’ve taught them how to keep dancing even without you as their constant partner.