On Child, to the River

ohriverIf you’re a parent and if you’re anything like me, you tread a fine line, providing for both your child’s safety and her freedom. Just yesterday, I was confronted with this conundrum.

On a visit to a dear friend’s land in the country, my nine year old son, I and the friend walked the edge of a hill overlooking a small river. Along with the five dogs, my son bounded down the steep edge, grabbing branches and lunging from tree to tree to the river bed nearly 100 feet below. My friend and I were in deep conversation, having not visited in too long a time. My son yelled up; I edged along the ridge, stumbling part  of the way down the hill to hear him. He wanted me to join him at the river.  I think I mentioned, my friend and I were deep in conversation.

As a young child, I remember numerous unchaperoned trips to the river, the swimming hole or just meandering along on our farm, sometimes miles from an adult. I treasure those experiences. My blueprint was formed by those long walks- navigating, taking risks, soaking in the environment, playing with the dogs and caring for our safe return.

My son called out again from the river below. I began walking down the steep hill, when my friend suggested that my son could continue down the river and meet us by the barn.  She’s the parent of a boy in his twenties and she’s wise. A little to my own surprise, I yelled the instructions far below. He yelled back that he wanted to cross the river. I yelled back that he must cross the river here, where I could see him, which actually was not really possible, but I was not quite ready to let go. He decided to stay on our side and began walking. We walked on, above. I almost forgot about him, we were so engrossed in our conversation. About 15 minutes later, as if waking for school late, I realized I couldn’t see or hear him, and he was walking along a river. Oh Panic!  Just as I did, we rounded the curving edge of the hill to a nice vantage point and I glimpsed a flash of one of the dogs. At that moment, I remembered my own walks, my own dogs, my own adventures as a child. I also felt an immediate sense of comfort, knowing that now these dogs were also caring for my son’s safe return. I yelled, and a sweet excited voice could barely be heard in return. Then a flash of another dog through the trees. Then a stronger voice, as my son progressed along the river’s edge.

We met up casually and walked on towards the barn together. He was smiling. I looked down and noticed his leg was bleeding. It was a fairly decent little gash. His feet were also soaked. It was 40 degrees. Happy as a clam.


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