Yesterday, we got to church for our weekly groups early enough that my younger daughter had much-loved time to play on the playground. She wanted me to support her across the monkey bars. WOW, did that test how well my knee rehab is going! (Quite strong and stable, given that I was standing and walking backwards on loose beach-type sand holding 45 pounds.) My daughter loves to swing, and, sure enough, she hopped on the swing, asked me to push her, and informed me, “I want to go high!”
I pulled her back and gave her the initial pushes. As every parent knows, though, when you’re pushing a child on the swings, there’s not but so high a parent can push their child. The parent can start them, but then the child has to pump her legs, and truly, her height is completely up to her at this point. The child pumps and rises, eventually getting to the point where the chains start to go slack and she can see over the bar at the top. She can lean back in the swing, letting her hair flow back and down in the breeze, or the more adventurous can decide to jump out of the swing at this point (with hopefully no broken bones). The point is, though, once the child takes responsibility for her own swinging altitude, she can then choose what to do with it.
As I stood with my daughter, watching her swing, I thought about a situation a friend is going through with his daughter. The daughter’s mom think she’s “keeping her safe” by doing everything for her, way more than a near-teen needs to have done. As a result, this young lady is lazy and slack about her self-care, especially pertaining to her medical needs. You see, this mom doesn’t know that it’s time to stop pushing and time to trust her daughter to pump her legs.
Watching a child getting crazy-high on the swings is a bit heart-stopping: Will she fall? Will the chain mysteriously snap? What happens if she loses her grip? Answer: She’ll get hurt, but likely survive. In the meantime, there are squeals and giggles carried on the wind, fading and growing with the Doppler effect as she goes back and forth. There’s the memories of exhilaration of being a girl on the swing, feeling that “oh my gosh!” as you remember seeing the chains go slack and feeling like you were so high. And you realize, you just can’t take that away from her, because this child will likely never fall out of a swing, but she’ll experience a million moments of soaring thrills as her legs pump her higher and higher and higher and she leans back to feel the wind in her hair.
Sure, a child is safer being kept close under mother’s protective wing, but she’ll also never learn what she can do on her own. That child will swing as long as she’s in mom’s reach, but she’ll never soar if mom won’t let go of her. Sadly, the child will never learn she actually can soar. As parents, there has to come a time when we let go of our children, trusting them to hang onto the chains, but only as long as they want to. This is the only way we will empower our children to rise up to be all that they possibly can be.