I remember the days when I used to hold my children’s hands as they crossed the street. Sometimes I still grab for their hand and realize that they are taller than me now and their hand is not where it once was – lower than mine – or my son ignores me and runs across the street before I can grab it and embarrass him.
They look at me funny as if I am having a senior moment.
But what they don’t see, what most people don’t see, is that I am holding their hand all the time, figuratively-speaking. As a parent, I feel like I am always crossing thresholds. Or bridges. Or tightropes.
Sometimes I am walking the child across only to return to the other side to receive another one coming off a different bridge. At other times, I watch them go ahead of me, cross on their own, and keep walking while I stay where I am. (This happens mostly at airports and on actual bridges.)
When you have many children, you soon realize there are always milestones that occur concurrently. They become so normal and ordinary, I forget that they are huge shifts that take place within the individual child. With the first child, there is novelty. With the fifth child, unfortunately, it’s old news.
I recently asked my 11 year old son about his 12 year old molars because I was curious to see if any were loose or potentially falling out. It was strange that none had even begun to fall out yet.
He said, “Mom, two fell out months ago.”
I asked, “Did you tell me about them?”
He said, “I can’t remember.”
I felt bad I missed it but he didn’t seem to mind. (The last big parenting fail was realizing we forgot to teach him how to ride a bike when he was nine years old. He forgave us when he realized he could learn in fifteen minutes.)
The threshold I remember most are the tightropes over raging rivers. The ones where I am on the other side already and I have to coach the child how to cross because this particular threshold should be difficult in magnitude to ensure exponential growth.
This is the one where they have to make an adult choice that could change their life, the one where they have to make a decision about the type of person they want to become.
Some adults never cross this one and live a life unfulfilled. They wake up one morning and are full of regret using words like should’ve and could’ve. With this threshold, there are no crossroads where the paths seem the same. The choice is to take a risk, cross through danger, teetering on a single rope or stay put on the shore where safety is guaranteed.
In my life, there have been many tightropes that I have avoided, fallen from, and crossed. The first step always takes courage. I tell my children that there is such a thing as muscle memory so after the first time they get themselves across, they will remember how to balance and more importantly, they will remember that they were able to do it.
Launch your first business. Apply for that program, internship, or job. Begin and commit to that relationship. Go all in.
I miss the days when I just needed to get safely across the road or when I just needed to be close by as they balanced across a log over a small creek. I was responsible for them. Now I know the best way to guide them is being responsible for myself – for continuing to walk across my own tightropes. They watch my technique, they watch my process, and above all, they watch what happens when I fall and when I make it across.