Unless you totally ignore Pinterest and Facebook, you’ve probably seen it or one like it.
I’ve seen it, read it, and smiled in commiseration and support for parents who are willing to live it. And I’ve also said a quick and silent prayer of thanks; for the most part, I have rarely felt the need to flip out, hunt them down, or otherwise be my children’s worst nightmare.
But Swimmer Girl learned this past weekend that we do sometimes stalk her.
Well, not just her.
More like the entire youth group.
And okay, it really wasn’t stalking, so much as being in the right place at the right time.
We were coming back from an overnight trip to Cleveland, Georgia and passing through the Ocoee River valley late Saturday afternoon. We knew our youth group (including Swimmer Girl) had been white water rafting on the Ocoee. So as I swung us up, down, around and over the hilly route that follows the river (they don’t call them the “Ultimate Driving Machine” for nothing), Mr. Official kept craning his neck and looking at every raft, saying, “I bet that’s them!” Finally we reached the last few excursions and he gave up the search. A few minutes later, he spotted the sign pointing to Outoor Adventure Rafting’s facility, which is the guide group we usually use. We had to check, right? As we pulled up to their parking area, we spotted our church’s bus. And at that exact moment, our youth group was grabbing their clothes and hitting the showers before heading home.
Our youth minister was not surprised to see us. I doubt much of anything surprises him these days. But the look on Swimmer Girl’s face was a combination of surprise and…that funny look when you see someone out of context, and it’s taking you a minute to figure out who they are and why they are there. We had the element of surprise working in our favor, but I know how she felt.
There comes a time in every parent/child relationship when you first really see each other as independent, autonomous people who lead separate lives, albeit with some major overlap and intersections.
It is a strange sensation to run into an acquaintance when and where you least expect it. But for parents and children, to do so marks the end of the first chapter in your lives, and the beginning of the next. You begin to see each other as people, rather than strictly as children or parents.
For parents who are still in the stalking, flipping out and lecturing years, I salute you and encourage you to remain strong and resolute. Because someday, you too will be able to look at your child as an adult whose life no longer requires your constant presence. And when you run into each other unexpectedly, it will hopefully be a very pleasant coincidence. Because timing really is everything.