Somehow I hit the rental lottery and ended up living in a modest cottage on a lake with my two children, ages 11 and 8.
Water has always been healing for me, as it is for many people. After getting divorced, my soul was pretty damaged. Divorce is possibly one of the most painful processes to live through. It is emotionally draining, especially if you have children together.
So when I was looking for a new home, I came across a wonderful opportunity to rent a house on a small lake. I applied and somehow, through the grace of god, we were chosen to be the property's renter.
I am grateful every single day that the landlord picked us.
My son, Dexter, had been asking for two years for a stand up paddleboard. He joined me when I was on assignment two years ago and took a lesson with personal trainer and stand up paddle board professional Casi Cincotta Rynkowski. Dex took to the sport immediately and has since begged for a board of his own.
As a single parent on a limited income I wasn't sure how I was going to spring for such a high-priced item. That's where my beau stepped in. For Dexter's 11th birthday last month, Jason splurged and got Dexter his board.
The first time Dex ventured out I had tears in my eyes.
Everyone tells you how fast it all goes, and you don't believe it. In the beginning you are so sleep deprived you can't remember where you put your car keys. Your former independence vanishes. Your right arm is slightly larger and more toned than your left from toting your baby around in a carrier to the grocery store, Target, play dates and mom club outings.
You struggle with this new role, "mother" that no one, no job or past experiences truly prepares you for. Your once buff body slowly recovers from the c-section delivery, but you never quite get rid of the "fat lip" hanging above your scar.
You are riddled with doubts, wondering if you are swaddling correctly. Will your baby be just as smart as his peers because you opted for a bottle because he couldn't latch on. Will he flourish, will he grow?
The reflux keeps him up screaming all night. You constantly worry, wondering if you're doing things right. It doesn't help that there are so many willing to offer their unsolicited parenting advice.
You are terrified to cut his tiny nails, scared to death you might miss the mark and cut him. Am I doing enough for him socially? Is it normal that he's walking at nine months?
You sign him up for swim lessons, parent-child preschool, sports classes, library story-time and art lessons. You irrationally try to keep up, making sure you are creating a well-rounded child.
Vivien arrives two years later, adding to the mix and things really start to speed up. Now you have double the swim lessons, sporting and arts classes and playdates. You run around like a crazy person, making sure you are getting vegetables on their plates, trying to balance out the unhealthy mac and cheese.
There is so much fear in you. You hope all of your efforts help them find their way. You worry constantly about their wellbeing, their confidence, their health, and their socialization.
You once had to reach down to hold his hand but now your baby boy is closing in on you and stands at 5'5". He applies deodorant to his armpits every morning and his shoes are bigger than yours.
He's grabbing a paddle board and leaving you on the shore. You call out and remind him to put on his life vest, but other than that, he's on his own.
You watch from a distance as your son navigates through the water. As he dips the paddle into the water, moving further away from you, you pray you're doing it right.
He looks so big out there, no longer a boy but emerging into a young man.
With each stroke he moves further away and tears fill your eyes. He seems at peace, lost in his own thoughts, many that he won't share.
"Don't blink," they all said.
I tried not to. I kept my wide open.
But it still happened.
Parenthood is the hardest job you'll ever have, they all said.
You didn't believe.
But now you know.
I've got seven short years left before he ventures out into the world as a man. Seven.
My eyes are peeled.