It hardly required a thought; it was more an impulse. I grasped the upper arm of my adult daughter, stopped her, and led her backward a step.
We had been in the midst of fevered conversation as only a parent and usually-away-at-college child can be. We walked through an H-E-B parking lot where even at night people zip and zag. The bright white backup lights of a large SUV came on as we approached its rear bumper.
Earlier in the day, a friend had asked prayer for a young woman run over by a SUV backing up in a parking lot.
A parent takes a lifetime of learning and continued learning and turns it into care for a child. In this case, an email prayer request turned into parental care when I took my daughter’s arm and led her backward.
Thirty-five years ago, I became a parent. I read books on parenting before becoming one, but my main source of preparation had been the examples of my own parents. Trese, my wife, brought a different set of experiences to the process to double our preparation as a couple.
Parenthood had been the primary life goal for each of us. We jumped in. And once you jump in, you stay in, even when your “child” is an adult fully capable of taking care of herself or himself.
The thing I miss most about the early years is the ability to hold a child fully within my arms, close to my chest, snuggled up tight. The holding, over time, becomes less complete, less all encompassing.
Some parents have trouble letting go. They’re called helicopter parents by college officials. But it’s best to let go. We let go gradually through the years, it being an almost imperceptible change.
Then one day you are reaching out to take your daughter’s arm in a parking lot. You wouldn’t have to reach out if she were still a child, but she’s not, and that is good. She can walk and run and work and play on our own. She doesn’t need you like before, but she still can benefit from your presence, your care, your watchfulness.
And then a day will come when she reaches out to take your arm and draw you away from danger and trouble and suffering. And there may even come a day when she holds you close, just like you did her decades before.
Parenting is such a loving process of care and being cared for. If you’re not a parent, you can be there for others and they can be there for you. There are plenty of people who need hugs and hand-holding and shoulders to lean upon.
Jesus became flesh and dwelt among us so God could touch us, literally touch us. And now we can be Jesus to others. And today I am especially grateful that my children, who are no longer children, are in my life to embody the love and care and touch of Jesus.
(This post originally appeared on the Texas Baptists website.)
Last night, for the second day in a row, a tornado warning and emergency sirens interrupted our evening plans. A twister had been sited and was heading our way with 20 minutes to prepare. This time, we ran like scared chickens.
Our house sits on a hill, so we’re rather exposed; no, we’re really exposed. The ladies in our house were ready to flee, and we had three choices of refuge — under the house, down into a low creek bed with a large culvert or over to an matching culvert sitting in a field. I had a preference for under the house, but that didn’t seem to capture the imagination of the others. My youngest daughter, age 16, lobbied for the latter option of the culvert in the field. I trumped her with my age, experience and maleness, so we hopped in the truck and drove to the creek bed.
At the edge of the creekbed, we sat in the truck and watched. A giant, white cloud appeared above us tailing down to our right at about a 35 degree angle. “It looks like a butt,” Trese declared because near the top, where the cloud connected to the cloud bank, there was a long, dark “crack” in the cloud. More importantly it looked to be a broad funnel cloud. Abandon ship or, in this case, abandon truck. To the creek culvert.
As one might expect, and I knew in advance, there was water running a couple of inches deep in the creek bed. The problem with the culvert is that the water doesn’t flow through it; instead it flows around it with a pile of broken limbs at one end and mud in the bottom.
I did not anticipate the depth and stickiness of the mud. One of my daughters promptly lost a flip-flop in the muck and I did a hand-dive to retrieve it. About that time I also realized I had failed to shod myself properly. I had on the shoes I normally wear to work — nice Rockports. They couldn’t be seen in the mud. Our 16-year-old was the best prepared — fashionable, polka-dot galoshes.
The cloud stayed off the ground, but the lightening didn’t. More than once, my 16-year-old raised the point about us standing in watery mud beside a water-filled creek with lightening all around. The logic of her argument was unasailable.
Then a reenactment from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” occurred. Runaway, runaway. There was no killer bunny, but we didn’t want to be fried Fosters. Back in the truck for an escape to the other culvert.
I did risk life and limb for the family to open a metal gate in the midst of the electric funhouse, but no one said thanks. We waited out the storm at our new sanctuary — obviously the best choice all along.
No damage to us or our stuff. The only damage was to my fatherly ego. My 16-year-old daughter did the best thinking in the midst of the storm. Of course, that does make me feel really good in one sense; she’s going to do just fine on her own in a few years. I just hope the guy she’s with has the sense to listen to her. Or maybe I should say, I hope they both have the sense to listen to one another.