I love this quotation . . .
“You don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave at his parents every time around – and why his parents will always wave back.”
– William D. Tammeu
A boy or girl on a carousel is a powerful metaphor for kids growing up and parents letting go.
The child does something daring. In this case, it’s straddling a painted pony and enduring a cacophony of garish colors and noise. They’re no longer holding onto dad’s strong hand or mom’s secure apron strings. Suddenly, they are whooshed out of sight. They’re gone. On their own.
But what happens on each revolution? As they come full circle, they look for you and loosen their grip with one hand just long enough to wave with delight.
The only reason a small child has such courage is because they know you will be there, just in case they need to be rescued. Seeing you – standing firm at every revolution – provides the exact security they need. And it confirms the heart connection you need. The exuberant wave is not hello or good-bye, it’s saying, “We’re in this together.”
So. Remember the carousel. Embrace that image when your child does anything daring. Kindergarten. Summer camp. Their first date. Their first job. College. The mission field. The military. Be there to send them off and welcome them back. And stand firm every minute in between.
The flipside of this image can be painful. I apologize for ending this note on a downer. But – for a moment – imagine a dad at a carousel suddenly not there. The child looks around frantically. Bewildered. Where did my dad go? That’s what happens when a family splits up. As a society, let’s do everything we can to prevent that loss of foundation and security from happening to our kids.