Boating is great fun, until it isn’t. I love going boating with my family. But we pushed it a bit too far two weeks ago and got ourselves into some real trouble.
The morning started out great. It was just our little family on the boat, and, since it was a Tuesday, we were the only boat on the entire lake. We all surfed behind the boat, had nice long turns and kept an eye on the sky. The forecast called for storms, but we had lucked out with sunshine so far, though the water was pretty choppy.
Then, after eating lunch, the kids begged to inflate the tube and go out. We thought it was only fair since three-year-old isn’t big enough to surf yet, so she needed her turn to go on the tube. The wind was kicking up, but we didn’t think that was too big of a deal since we were just tubing anyway. More bumps equals more fun.
Three-year-old, six-year-old and I were on the tube. Three-year-old thinks she is too big to be held while on the tube, so she had her own seat. When we started, the water was rough but manageable. Hubby took us out against the waves but slowly, so we were bouncing around, giggling. Then the wind kicked up even more and the waves got bigger. So, my husband turned us around. We were facing the other way going with the waves. The problem was, one large wave hit us from behind and the front of the tube went down into the trough of the wave in front. The tube swamped and all three of us found ourselves in the lake, with waves getting higher and harder all around us.
I grabbed three-year-old as the tube swamped. She immediately started screaming and crying. I told six-year-old to swim to me, and I held them both.
But with both of them in my arms, I couldn’t swim. I couldn’t do anything but bob with the waves. My six-year-old’s lifejacket did a pretty good job. It kept her head above the water, mostly. She was scared, and panicking a little. As I kept seeing the boat and tube get farther away, I made a wrenching decision. I pushed my six-year-old as I hard as I could toward the boat and told her to swim. She kicked with all her might and made it to the swimmer’s deck; her brother helped her climb on.
That left three-year-old and I in the water, drifting farther and farther away. She was screaming and crying, and her life jacket did not keep her head out of the water too well. She kept getting her head submerged with every wave that hit over the top of us. And since her mouth was open, she would choke, sputter it out, then start wailing again, only to have the whole cycle repeated.
All I could do was keep her with me, pray, and wait to be rescued. You see, I have a confession to make. I’m not a strong swimmer. I can propel myself with my arms fairly well, but my legs seem to be useless in the water. My arms and all my strength were put into holding my three-year-old as high out of the water as I could. Plus, I don’t really do that well in crisis situations. I was scared, too. Not for myself, but for my daughter. With every choking episode, I worried she’d take in too much water in her lungs and drown. I kept saying, “It’s OK, Mommy’s got you.” But it clearly was not OK, and she knew it. Nothing I did could calm her.
My husband couldn’t get the boat started to pick us up. And did I mention we were the only boat on the lake? No one else could even come to help us. So, hubby hauled in the tube which was now unswamped, jumped on it, and paddled towards us.
I have never been so happy to see someone coming toward me in my life; we were going to be saved.
But then, there was a moment, a moment when we were literally at the end of the rope. The tube’s rope was still hooked to the boat and my husband was still too far away for us to get to him. The rope jerked him back and he could go no farther. He hollered to my son to unhook the rope. My twelve-year-old untethered him and my husband paddled the rest of the way to us.
My hubby hauled three-year-old up onto the tube and I got on, too. Then, he paddled us back to the boat which, thankfully, started up just fine.
My poor three-year-old was catatonic. She wouldn’t speak or even move once we got her on the boat. But, she slowly started to thaw. I just kept hugging her and six-year-old and wouldn’t let them go. We slowly motored back to the harbor. Inside the harbor, it was gentle and calm.
I learned a few lessons while bobbing wherever the waves wanted to take us. First and foremost, if the weather looks bad, pack it in, especially when kids are involved. Second, I need to take some swimming lessons and get better so I can help my kids as well as myself.
But the other lessons I learned are more spiritual in nature. The first, as a mom, came when I had to decide to let six-year-old go. As parents we all have those moments when we have to let our child sink or swim on their own, only they aren’t usually as literal as mine. But give them the best support you can and trust that what you’ve armed them with is enough. It is; they are strong.
I learned that I love my husband more each day because he is the kind of man who will always come to my, and my children’s, rescue. No matter what.
I also learned a little bit about the Savior. Sometimes, when you’re being tossed on the waves, you can only see help coming in the distance. And sometimes, you have to get to the end of your rope, and then go beyond that point, to get the help you need.
And finally, don’t leave your safe harbors. God’s love encircles us like the land encircled the water of the harbor. If we don’t turn away, if we don’t choose to leave, we’ll be safe. And if we do leave, we can always, always, return.