Monday, August 07, 2006

Basking

Last night Child went down the waterslide by herself.

She's been on it with me maybe 50 times; she wears her life jacket and sits on my legs. At the end I hold her up so she won't get water in her mouth and nose in the big splash. But she's 4 1/2, and on an independence streak lately. She wants to make breakfast herself, water the plants herself, order at restaurants by herself...(my husband asked her, jokingly, if she would like to drive home. She said "I can't reach the pedals." He responded, "But what if you could reach them; would you drive home?" Her: "Sure, I've watched you do it.")

So here we are at the top of the slide, a line of wet teenagers behind us. She's holding my hand, waiting her turn, but she's not nervous. She has her life jacket on, she knows what to do. I'm petrified.

(What if she gets stuck? What if she bangs into the side and cuts herself? What if she panics in the enclosed space by herself and...) And what? All unlikely. She's never gotten stuck before. I've banged myself once, but only once. Her daddy is waiting for her at the bottom, I'm here at the top. There are lifeguards. It's perfectly safe.

We're next. I set her, my perfect, bright little girl in her flowered bathing suit, into the bubbling water. I wave out the window to her daddy, and kiss her on top of the head. She gives me that grin, the one where she's so proud of herself she could burst. She'll be safe she'll be safe she'll be safe she'll be fine she'll be fine she's fine.

The buzzer goes and I push her back gently, and then she is gone, washing away down the slide. I can't see her anymore; from the first curve she's hidden from me. I peer from the fogged little window, waiting for a sight of her at the bottom. It seems a long time, longer than usual. The lifeguard is watching too, her hand on the buzzer.

And there she is. In a whoosh she flies out from the end, right into her daddy's arms. The buzzer sounds and it's my turn. I slip down the slide. I had wanted this, to ride by myself, to be able to ride on my back and go fast. But now all I want is to have my baby back with me. At the end they're waiting, the two of them, with a tale of her ride--she had lost her balance, flipped over, come out feet first on her belly, backward. But she made it.

"Was it fun?" I asked. "Did you like it?"

She smiled. "Not as much fun. I think I'm too small to balance it right by myself."

I smiled back, relieved. She'd tried it, she'd made it--yay for her!--but decided on her own that she still needed me. She wasn't quite ready for the world on her own yet.

Then she drifted over to the sweet spot in the pool, where the hot water bubbles up from the spring. "Look at me," she said giddily. "I'm basking in the fizzy water."

I knew, even at that moment, that this is what life is like, that there are lessons here. You have to let your children go, you have to push them down the slide out of sight. You have to trust them, and then wait helplessly to make sure they're okay. Sometime soon she won't want to ride with me anymore, and I will be able to ride it by myself as much as I want. Be careful what you wish for. But most of all, that there will always be that moment, if you're lucky, when after trying and maybe not-quite-succeeding to your expectations, you can get a hug, and then bask in the fizzy water.

Medieval Word of the Day: bask: To bathe, especially in warm water or liquid, and so transf. to be suffused with, or swim in, blood, etc. Obs.

7 comments:

Cindy said...

Hi Susan:
Four and a half is hard, isn't it? Every change draws my heart's blood, and then every time he confirms that yes, he still needs me, I am healed.

He'll start school in September. Will Sophie?

Susan Adrian said...

Cindy:

Well, she started preschool last September; this is her second year in the Montessori 3-year program. Kindergarten is next year. Is this year kindergarten for you?

Andrew said...

You're right. I think one of the toughest jobs we parents must do is gradually let go, gradually let them try out their own wings and fly. You'd probably enjoy an article about this called Big Bad Dad, which talks about some of the things you have to look forward to with your daughter, I'm sure.

Mrs. Mitty said...

Oh, Susan. >sniff< It goes so fast! I'm happy for you that she decided it wasn't as good without you. :)

My 'babies' are 25 and 21 and while they still need their parents, it's nothing like when they were little. Enjoy it while it lasts!

And, my, what a smartie little girl: basking! How many other 4 yo's know *that* word? ;)

Susan Adrian said...

Thanks, Andrew! The link was useful too. Though I shudder to think about dating yet, it will come before I know it, and you have some good reminders there to prepare for independence ahead of time.

Susan Adrian said...

Maureen:

Thanks! I do try to enjoy it, as I know very well it is fleeting. And a lovely time. {s}

Cindy said...

Suze:
We have Primary before 1st grade, so I think it's the same as your kindergarten.

Off to respond to your more important post...