Parents as Anchors
I had occasion to use an anchor recently. We rented a boat on Lake Jocassee, not far from where we live. We pulled into shore for lunch and used the anchor on the boat to provide a little stability for the stern.
I am not a ‘boat guy.’ I have minimal nautical knowledge. I enjoy being on lakes and rivers. I vomit violently at sea. It’s not pretty.
But I’ve been thinking a bit about anchors as our children get older. It’s easy, when one has been an engaged and active parent, to feel a sense of loss as the kids become independent and have their own friends, activities and interests unrelated to the folks at home.
Sure, it’s what we want for them. They grow up. However, for 18 + years they are constant features of our everyday lives. We spend our time making sure they are safe, warm, dry, fed, healthy and sane. We provide for the material needs, their educational needs and everything else that we discover they need and we can help give them. We console them. We try to make them wise. We invest our efforts in ensuring that they know they are loved, that they understand how to navigate difficulties as well as pleasures.
Maybe that’s a key word. They’re learning to navigate.
Which brings me back around to anchors. Our children are 24, 22, 20 and 18. One working, three in college. And they are busy. Many a day, even during school breaks, they are nowhere to be seen. This will only continue as they move on into their lives. It is entirely unfair to expect them to attend to our emotional needs primarily. They have lives to live and will have relationships and ultimately may have children of their own.
And yet, their mother and I remain important. If only as anchors.
What do we know about anchors? They can be rather interesting looking. They sometimes appear in artwork or tattoos. But in practical usage, they spend most of their time either stowed away or under water, attached to the vessel by chains or ropes.
Their function, per Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anchor
‘An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the craft from drifting due to wind or current. The word derives from Latin ancora, which itself comes from the Greek ἄγκυρα (ankura).’
When the anchor is in use, it isn’t seen. It’s at the bottom, or at least well beneath the boat, holding or slowing and stabilizing the craft against external forces. It is, for most on board, entirely out of mind. Life goes on for those on the surface.
But because of the anchor, it goes on with more stability and safety. It is of enormous value.
As school starts, and kids go back to classes either locally or in college; as they go on to the military, marriage, work or even into trouble or incarceration, it is important to remember that we who love them, we who miss them, we who long for their laughter, company and for the easy intimacy of that daily relationship, are still vital.
Because we are the anchors that they need in the maelstrom of their voyages. Often forgotten, but always essential and always tied to them in one way or another.
There are worse things for a parent to be.