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The Ebb and Flow

The Ebb and Flow

We nearly broke into a run when we first spied it.  The wind whipped through our hair and the telltale smell of fire-faded driftwood blew through our bodies.  After awkwardly walking through the dry shifting sand, we reached the stable ocean line where the waves tickled our toes – easily mesmerized by the methodical movement of the ocean tide.

My daughters and I spent the last week at the Oregon coast.  Several times we made our way to the beach and as I watched them delight in dancing in and out of the frigid water, I found myself thinking of the ebb and flow in parenting.

The constant and predictable movement, so much like the routines of our days.  The inherent tension in the currents pushing forward and backward the perfect metaphor for the love and labors we so often find in parenting.  The waves starting small, moving to the highest seventh and starting over – a parallel to raising my pre-teen girls as they seek more independence.  They take small steps away and with each next step, they grow more courage until they hit a crescendo of growth and start over toward the next milestone.

As the ocean view changed over the week from windy one day to calm the next – this too, was a parallel for parenting.  The cliché of weathering the storm very much applies to parenting during divorce.  But I stumbled upon new insight this trip.

On one of our strolls along the coast, I saw a seal bobbing its head in the water.  I excitedly pointed showing my girls where to look.  “Toward those rocks,” I said.  “Mom, those aren’t rocks!  Those are more seals sunbathing!”  My eldest daughter happily exclaimed.  There, right in front of us, were no less than 75 to 100 seals sleeping on a sandy shore across the inlet from us.  When we weren’t paying attention, they merely looked like rows of driftwood.  But in reality, we were seeing something extraordinary.

It made me wish I could “do-over” some of the time I spent with my daughters while going through my divorce.  Difficult times in life, such as divorce, pull us away from the whole picture as we micromanage what feels like our very survival.  I realize now that I surely missed seeing some extraordinary moments with my girls, because I wasn’t focusing.  I was seeing without really looking.  I was too focused on the loss, to be grateful when I had gains.  I wish I had been more mindful of my view.

My heart aches with regret when I look back at being in survival mode. I was not paying close attention to my daughters growing up – them growing up was just part of the blur of getting through those hard days.  But as this crushing thought recedes like the tide from high to low, I can now see in the calm the ebb and flow of taking one small parenting step and with each next step, more lessons, until I hit a crescendo of growth and start over toward the next parenting pinnacle.

Angela Dunne