31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Same Boat, Different Day

Single with Children: Life series of 'same boat, different day'

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 11/13/02

A friend recently rented an ocean front condo on the coast of North Carolina. An early riser, he sometimes would go out on his deck and take photos of the changing view of the Atlantic Ocean. The photos were beautiful, many of them breathtaking. Two, in fact, were of particular interest to me.

The two photographs were centered around a shrimp boat, heading out to sea, taken about 24 hours apart. In the first photo, the sky looks extremely dark, threatening and more than a little foreboding. It's apparent that the shrimp boat is heading into heavy weather.

In the second picture, the same boat is surrounded by the pink and orange hues of a beautiful morning, steaming in the same direction once again, doing what shrimp boats do, with the captain, no doubt, in high hopes of pulling in a full bounty of fresh seafood. Whatever happened to that boat and that captain in terms of weather on the previous day didn't extinguish his resolve to set back out to sea and get the job done.

At first, I didn't understand the magic of the sequence. I just figured my friend probably found shrimp boats endearing. However, there was much more that could be extrapolated from a simple two-photo series which he came to dub "same boat, different day."

The magic of the message is that life, particularly families, is a lot like that boat. Some days you wake up and head out into a day, and you just know you're going to be heading into heavy, rough weather. Perhaps it's a child dealing with any number of issues that crop up in the intricate business of growing up. It could be anything from the separation anxiety felt at being left at preschool to the peer pressure of high school. Maybe it's a family coping with the stormy seas that come with living through a divorce. Those waves can get rough, as many of us who have been on that particular voyage can attest. The frightening swells and unexpected challenges that life, at times, tosses at us can feel particularly overwhelming and downright impossible to figure out. Sometimes, when you're right in the thick of a life storm, it often feels as if there is no lighthouse to guide you back to a safe harbor.

Of course, we continue on because, as parents, we're the captain of the ship. We make course corrections even when we don't feel as though there's a map within reach. We batten down our emotional hatches, check on the crew and hold on for dear life. Every member of that crew is family, which is precious, and safety, both emotional and physical, is the thing we safeguard with every piece of our heart.

We find our bearings, we learn to navigate, and we push on because there is no alternative and the resiliency of the human spirit allows us to believe, even in the darkest of moments, that we will make it back to port. Our children are looking for answers, guidance, direction and security. Although our reserves may feel depleted, we provide the very best of what we have.

The most amazing part is that we tend to make it far more often than we don't. Just like the boat heading out on that calm sea the day after what was probably a rough ride, we are treated to exquisite moments that seem to appear simply to remind us that we are doing just fine. Skies clear, swells calm and quite often the wind blows from the right direction, strong enough to fill our sails, lift our hearts and set us back on course.

Perhaps the real lesson of my friend's photo essay is that yes, at times it's going to get crazy out there. There are going to be situations when everyone might be scurrying around looking for the seasick pills, and you will swear that you will never step on the boat that is your life again. Accept that. But also remember that as fast as some of those life storms can blow in, fair weather isn't usually too far behind.

Therein lies the magic of that second photo my friend shared with me. It's a new day, another chance to set out, filled with the special kind of optimism that can only be felt after having learned we are stronger than we ever believed ourselves to be.

Heavy weather is inevitable, but it doesn't last forever. The thing to remember is that gifts of fair weather aren't usually too far behind. Keep an eye out for lifting clouds and sunshine. It's still there, even behind all the scary stuff.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at Susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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