Last week, my family and I took an impromptu visit to a local lake. We first grabbed some lunch and then headed to the water. There are many lake access points and our adventure led us to one that we have visited many times in the past. We walked through some trees, with cups from lunch in hand, to have some family fun.
My oldest son followed their father’s lead and removed his shoes. After a short delay, I removed the shoes and socks of our youngest [and Autistic] son. My middle son was not immediately sold on getting into the water and instead requested to take a walk. So off him and I went.
We did not go very far before stopping to observe the environment – the smell, the tall grass growing in the water, the butterflies. When I looked over at the rest of the family, I panicked at the sight of my youngest son about knee deep in the lake. He started moving back toward the bank, likely in reaction to my outburst.
I realized that I was probably overreacting. I didn’t want to rob my middle son of his time, so I began to refocus on my interaction with him. But instead, he cut the walk short since I was, as he stated, ‘scared’. As we were walking to rejoin the others, I noticed our youngest son was now about chest deep in the lake. My panic returned and multiplied. Although his dad was calling for him to return, we could slowly see more and more of him disappearing into the water as he ignored the calls.
I did not want to rush toward him and risk him moving faster into deeper water, as he seemed to be moving in slow motion. He is usually very good at following instructions to ‘come here’. However, on this occasion and for reasons unknown, he was not interested in following directions.
I do not imagine that he understood how his act of defiance was actually placing his life in danger. His dad moved in to get him after a short time, although it felt like several minutes! He was safely returned to the bank of the lake with his clothes wet up to his shoulders and cup still in hand.
A “Not Mad. Motivated.” Point of View
It truly is a Blessing that we left the lake with all three of our sons being alive and well. Even though I had my eyes on him, the thought of him moving into deeper water and losing his ability to stand before someone got to him was frightening. In one moment, he was walking behind his dad. In the next moment, he forged his own path into deeper waters.
Ironically, an incident that I worried could have ended tragically actually now has revealed itself as a symbolism of life. Our children follow us to learn by our actions and our words. Eventually most of them will pave their own paths in this world. Some of them with stay on ‘bank’. Some of them will ‘get their feet wet’. While others will ‘dive right in’. What we must do as parents, caregivers, and supportive communities, is prepare them to the best of our ability, and keep our eyes open for them in case they need help.
There are many bumps in the road for someone that is responsible for the well being of a child. Try not to focus on the bumps. Instead, focus on letting every child know that they are worth the journey. And teach them skills that just might smooth out their road in the future. Time for swim lessons!
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