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Letting Go: As Parents, When Do We Say "When?"

Hello! I hope you all had a nice weekend. JD and I sure did! We went to a local street fair yesterday. There was a fresh-squeezed lemonade stand, hot dogs and mmm, warm, sugary funnel cake. A balloon artist clown made him a sword that he thought was “coo-wool” and a face painter drew a green car with glitter headlights on his hand. JD refused to feed the fuzzy baby lambs at the petting zoo because they were, “ew, smelly!” Ha! There was also a massive blow-up slide. I shielded my brow with my hand and looked up at the blue and red mountain. JD said: “Mommy, I want go on slide!” Gulp.

So, I bought a ticket and took his sneakers and socks off. I started to slip out of my sandals when JD took off like a monkey and climbed the steep makeshift staircase solo.

I heard him giggling and then he said, “rock and roll!” I couldn’t believe my baby was climbing up the 22 foot apparatus and I wasn’t behind him in case he lost his footing and tumbled. (My mom friends can tell you that I hate the blue jungle gym at the local park because it’s designed for older kids and has all these cutouts and 8 foot drops. I shadow JD when he’s up there.)

Watching him reach the top, smiling, made me realize something though. I need to back-off a bit. He’s not a newborn, or an infant or pudgy baby who just learned to sit up.

He’s going to be three in August—a three-year-old little boy. Next, he plopped down at the peak, didn’t think twice, pushed himself off and went FLYING and LAUGHING down the mega-slide. When he went to stand up, he lost his footing, fell and bounced on the airy, cushy mat and laughed some more. I was standing at the landing with my arms resting on the ledge. “Again, Mommy, I go again!” he said. And he went again and I watched with pride—ain’t no mountain too big for JD, especially with me waiting in the wings. I will support JD’s dreams, encourage, cheer and hope always.

This experience got me thinking about all of the controversy surrounding 16-year-old sailor, Abby Sutherland. Her parents Laurence and Marianne gave her permission to set sail around the world from Marina Del Ray, California in January. The ambitious teen has an extensive sailing background, being raised in and around sailboats. She has accumulated thousands of miles of coastal cruising through a number of hazardous weather conditions. It was these hazardous weather conditions—winds that blew 60 knots and crashing waves nearly 30 feet high that damaged her boat, “Wild Eyes,” and forced her to set off a distress signal on June 10. We all know how the story ended—Abby was rescued in the Indian Ocean. Questions remain though: Was Abby too young to go on this extreme solo sailing mission? Were her parents negligent for allowing the minor to do so? Well, Abby took to her blog and responded: “As for age, since when does age create gigantic waves and storms?” Her father, Laurence spoke to NBC’s Today Show and said:  “You face hard knots out there and sometimes you need to be rescued.”

As a mom who just coped with her almost three-year-old climbing up a slide, it’s hard for me to imagine ever letting JD take off on a mission like Abby. I have to say one thing, though, her parents have been criticized immensely and I kind of find them to be fascinating people who have set a universal example of a parent’s true role in their child’s life—and that is to support dreams, to encourage, to cheer, to hope. Abby is a lucky girl.

I would love to read some thoughts from you. Have you found yourself amazed at the adventures your toddler has taken on? Were Abby’s parents wrong to allow her to sail around the world?  

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