It's never too late to begin the healing process from childhood sexual abuse. It's never too early to fall in love with the person God created you to be. Long ago someone made a choice to take away your innocence, but today that someone can't touch your freedom to heal.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Wisdom of Relationship: Navigating the Whitewater of Life with Your Child

It was like the first day of Jr. High School all over again for me. With a lump in my throat, I stood at the top of the cliff and looked at the water below—the whitewater.

I was on mission. A step-out-of-my comfort zone mission. A kid mission. A momma on a mission. Take the Middle-Girl-Child on a get-away, that hopefully she’ll never forget, and talk about life, boys, sex, and Jr. High. And to do this, I had to love the twelve-year-old in a language she could understand and that meant—whitewater rafting.

You see, she’s a true-blue tomboy.

I had taken her older sister on a mission a few years earlier. Similar goals. Different language. The oldest is a bit more like me. We are not tomboys. So our adventure began at Asher’s Chocolate.

Yep, the oldest got to pick out a pound of chocolates. The only rule—eat them whenever you want—no restrictions. Then we drove to the salon. Manis and pedis, please! An hour later we, and our shiny nails, were off to the Pocono outlets for a little shopping and then my brother’s condo for a sleepover with chat time, junk food, and a movie. Oh, it was delightful! I knew how to pull this off. It was right up my comfort ally. I know the language. I can speak chocolate, shiny nails, and shopping.

Now I found myself at the top of the cliff, waiting in line, to traverse down primitive stairs etched into the side of the river bed, trying to look the part. But shaking in my water shoes. So much like my first day of Jr. High.

I looked around at my peers, my fellow whitewater rafters. All different shapes, sizes, ethnicities. Most were playing it cool, excited for the venture. But I wondered if any were nervous, like me. And I wondered if my soon-to-be junior higher was feeling a bit bubbly in the tummy as well. As I stated before, she’s a tomboy. If she was nervous, she wasn’t going to show it. I’d have to ask.

“Are you nervous?”

“A little,” she grinned.

“Me too.”

So unlike Jr. High where no one admits anything that might not be safe to admit. I was glad she felt safe with me. And I was glad I had sucked it up. Whitewater rafting was sure to provide more metaphors and word pictures to draw on to get Middle-Girl-Child through Jr. High, not without some bruises, but intact.

Before I knew it, we were preparing to enter the raft.  Two other adventurers joining us, a  play it cool lanky male, in his early twenties, and his, do you love me, do you really, really love me, girlfriend. (A writer can assess personalities, both strengths and character flaws, in a few short minutes. It’s a gift and a curse. Trust me.)

“So are you ready to be our captain?” Mr. Lanky, male child, soon to be man, asked.

“Ah, yeah,” I said, swallowing hard, wondering When will I learn? Why did I raise my stupid hand?

You see, before we left the rafting adventure center, they placed us in groups. Then they asked, “Who has ever done this before?” I raised my hand all strong and proud. “That’s your captain, folks!”

Note to self, I must tell Middle-Girl-Child to never raise her hand in Jr. High with a prideful attitude, unless, of course, she’s ready to accept all the consequences. Yet, I was pleased, another word picture to add to my lessons in How to Succeed in Jr. High without Really Dying.

So there I was, folks, in the back of the raft, paddle in hand. And like it or not, I was in charge, incredibly grateful for the rafting refresher course given, in fifteen quick minutes, back at the adventure center. It wasn’t much, but it was all I had to go on.

Mr. Lanky Boy, soon to man, was sitting to my right, Ms. Please, Please Love Me, directly in front of me, and my Middle-Girl-Child diagonally forward to my right. Our guides pushed us out into the river. Our six hour adventure began. And it was an adventure indeed.

Let me just stop and say, Mr. Lanky has no idea how many times I wanted to take my paddle and knock him and his annoying little comments right out of that raft. Hey bud, you don’t need to prove your manhood here. And stop speaking to your girlfriend like she’s stupid. And, yes, there were even a few times I wanted to smack Ms. Do You Love Me, Really, Really Love Me up side her pretty little desperate head. Honey, you’re worth more than this. Let him go, tell him to come back when he’s a man. But they were far more interested in their relationship dance, which was pitiful to watch, than getting us past the boulders and keeping us all in the raft.

However, I refrained. I chose to view it as more fodder for my lessons in How to Succeed in Jr. High without Really Dying. And I actually rallied all my momma instincts and reached long and far to keep Mr. Lanky and his gal in the raft on several occasions. Just call me Elasti-Momma.

But when I wasn’t focused on keeping the river rats and myself in the raft and we had some time to float and drift, I thought of all the ways whitewater rafting is like Jr. High.

The unseen boulders - Our guides told us that it’s not the boulders on the surface, making the most noise that can be the most dangerous. It’s those quiet, hidden masses of rock that can sneak up on you, that can send you flying out of the raft.

 Jr. High - Peer pressure. It’s quiet. Sneaky. It can send you places you don’t want to go.

Our instincts - Our guides also informed us that when you’re about to hit a boulder, your    instinct will be to slide your body away from the boulder. You want to move toward it, distributing your weight in the raft, so it won’t tip up into the air and dump you all into the water.

Jr. High - Fears. They will keep you from taking risks, good risks. Move toward your fear. Have courage.

My metaphors continued.

But then we encountered more and more whitewater, again and again. And I noticed something. When we were paddling, especially toward a boulder, the raft would pitch in directions I didn’t want it to go. I often felt like I was paddling alone.

Then wisdom surfaced. A wisdom that spoke quietly. The kind of wisdom that speaks from having done this before, from parenting for the second-time around and knowing that in parenting, one plus one rarely equals two.  I listened.

You can give Middle-Girl-Child all the word pictures you want comparing Jr. High with whitewater rafting. Word pictures are good. But what good are they if she goes through Jr. High thinking—she’s paddling alone?
So I spent the rest of the day, attempting to stay in the moment, simply enjoying the trip with my daughter. Because if I’ve learned anything over my twenty-six years of parenting it’s this:

The battle against most of the perils of Jr. High and beyond
 are best fought on the field of relationship.

Later, on our ride home, I spoke wisdom, in as few words as possible.

“I’m wondering. When we were on the river, did you ever feel like you were paddling alone?”

She smiled. “Yeah, I did.”

“I did too, especially when we were heading right toward a boulder. Jr. High can feel a lot like that. And sometimes you’re going to feel like your paddling alone. What are your dreams? What are the things you most want to do with your life?”

She’s a thinker. She had a list and shared them with me.

“I want those things for you too. And I’m here to help you get there. To help you achieve those dreams, I believe, God has placed in your heart. But here’s the thing, sometimes in Jr. High, you’re going to feel like I’m not paddling with you. You’re going to want to go one direction and if I think it’s not going to help you achieve your dreams, I’m going to steer you in another. But please know, when we were on that raft, facing that whitewater, no matter how it felt, I was always paddling with you. And no matter how you feel in Jr. High, you are not alone. I’m paddling with you.”

Sometimes the best wisdom we can share with our kids is to just shut-up and be there—be fully there.

If you would like to continue to read more stories by the Mother of the Cottage, AKA The Second-hand Mother, please subscribe to Carolyn's new blog here. She will continue to address issues for survivors of sexual abuse at Tamar's Redemption beginning this fall.

1 comment:

  1. What a great story! Thank you for sharing this. Any time I've ever gone whitewater rafting we have always had a guide with us. I'm impressed that you not only filled that role, but you did it with knees shaking. You're amazing!

    Christy @ A Heartening Life


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