A smooth sea never a skilled sailor made


We are always told that failure and adversity makes us stronger. That we learn through trial and error. That you can’t make an omelette without breaking a few eggs. Enough of the cliches….this weeks theme for our blog buddy group is ‘a smooth sea never a skilled sailor made’ and when I first read this I thought yes I can think of a few things to say about that. Like the fact that as a parent much of what we do with our children has to be trial and error as there’s no manual, each child is completely different and of course there’s also our own emotions and stuff to take into account. The seas of parenting are very rarely smooth – they are at best mixed with some calm spells, choppy waters and all out horrendous storms. As someone trying to navigate those waters though you need to have experienced the storms to be able to weather them again. Each time you deal with something then the next time it seems a tiny bit easier.

My husband and I did scuba diving when we first got married, something we’d like to take up again at some point. My husband did his open water course – the first level of diving, in Kenya on our honeymoon. What a brilliant environment to learn it! Beautiful clear blue water, amazing visibility to be able to see the wonderful sights and of course the still, calm waters to be able to appreciate the experience in. When I did my open water however it was in England, a combination of inland quarrys, brixham beach, rainy, cold weather and of course virtually zero visibility. In fact I had to have a guide rope between me and the instructor so I didn’t get lost as we couldn’t see each other underwater!! Quite a different experience. But I remember people in the diving world commenting at the time that “if you can dive in English conditions then you can dive anywhere” and that has been true. Anyway I’ve had the pleasure to dive since – Cyprus and the Red Sea for example have been a dream in comparison.

So my friends, how does this relate to my normal ramblings about life and particularly adoption parenting? Well there are days when parenting my children feels like diving off Brixham beach. It is treacherous waters, dangerous surroundings, zero visibility to see the future and not particularly pleasant. However there is so much I learnt from diving in these conditions and in fact to parenting under these circumstances too. I’ve learnt so much about myself and my resilience or lack of, my motivations and values, my pressure points and stressors and what support I need along the way. Much like diving there is equipment you need and you are never supposed to dive alone. You always have a buddy with you that experiences the dive with you. It’s been the same on my parenting journey. I’ve needed lots of resources along the way and people to travel the journey with me.

I didn’t intend this blog to be about diving but as I’ve been writing what’s inside I can see so many similarities with parenting and diving so here are some thoughts to hopefully keep your head above water:

1)  You are never alone. The buddy you have in diving is supposed to stick with you throughout the dive. You descend together, stay together underneath the water, make sure each other is ok and that you both have enough air in your tank. When one of you doesn’t then you share the air from one tank and submerge together. You witness each others journey and share in the experience together. My friends through adoption have been my most trusted friends and the ones I’ve shared the most difficult times with and we constantly go up and down in these choppy waters. Without them it would be all the more risky and not half as much fun.

2)  The deeper you get the calmer the sea becomes. I suffer with sea sickness and when I’m on a boat waiting to enter the water I feel dog rough. When you hit the water and the swelling is felt that doesn’t help either. Also if you’re entering the sea from a beach the closer you are to the shore and the shallower the water the more you feel the swell of the waves which increases the sickness feeling. However, once you dive that feeling disappears. The waters become calm and peaceful the deeper you descend. Down there is like a world of quiet and peace where all you are aware of is your breathing and the floating sensation. With my group of adopter friends the other day we were talking but the feeling of dread you can feel as an adoptive parent (something I will blog more on soon). One of the comments we made was that it’s always there – that feeling, much like the sickness I just described when in the water. But over time that feeling of dread gets deeper – you’ve not so aware of it as it’s not on the surface anymore but it’s become part of who you are. As the seas change, that constant calm and storm effect then those feelings can change – they may still be there always threatening to spill over but the deeper they go the less you are aware of them.

3)  When you go with the flow you see what’s around you. I’ve heard people say before when talking about diving how they could never do it – “so scary, I’d feel claustrophobic and panicky” and I understand those feelings but that’s not been my experience. I have struggled at times when a creature you weren’t expecting, like an eel or shark appears, but once you concentrate on slowing your breathing, relaxing into the water and being consciously aware of your body then the panic subsides and you are then very aware of the beauty around you. You can actually let the eel peek out at you or marvel as the shark swims over head. The same goes with parenting. Sometimes the panic of a situation or the thought of something happening can send you into a paralysing panic. However if you take a deep breath, try as much as you can to slow yourself down and really be aware of your body, then you can see clearer. That is one of the main sensations I remember about diving – the feeling of tranquility, simplicity and clarity. That’s what I want in my parenting and what I want for my friends. Tranquility, simplicity and clarity (again a possible future blog)!

So whether you feel like your seas are calm, or quite the opposite at the moment, take hope from the fact that you are learning how to navigate these waters. Hopefully you will get to some moments of tranquility, simplicity and clarity along the way. And once you have become that skilled diver or sailor then know that you can help others struggling to control their own sea – we can not do this thing alone!

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