I am snorkeling directly above a hammerhead shark.
What?! Did I just turn 40 and completely lose my mind?!
During a long day at Typhoon Lagoon Water Park with my sister and our combined five kids, I'd conquered the Crushing Gusher. Weathered the Wave Pool. Survived the Storm Slides.
I was pretty darn proud of myself. I’d earned some street cred with the kids -- and was quite pleased to call it a day.
My smug self-satisfaction, however, was soon shattered.
Molly: “Ooooo, look! There’s a ‘Shark Swim’! Let’s do that!”
Me: Oh, they have a shark tank? Yea, let’s go see the sharks.
Molly: No, you actually swim with the sharks! Awesome!
I mean, really, didn’t anyone see Jaws 3?! (The one where the crazed Great White gets loose in a Sea World-type park) Come on, people!
I could have wimped out. But I could just see the headline: “Mom Feeds Children to Sharks while Cowering by the Kiddie Pool!”
So there you have it. My fear of humiliation trumped my fear of snaggle-toothed predators. I would brave the deep and protect my young.
Our guide “Bob” seemed a wee bit too chipper for someone about to send us to our doom.
“You’ll be swimming with bonnetheads, hammerheads, sting rays and other tropical fish!”
A shark is a shark, Man! Ferocious, man-eating … Does it really matter what kind???!
“Oh, and be prepared. The water is 68 degrees.”
Great, Bob. If the sharks don’t get me, the hypothermia will.
“Don’t worry, the sharks are more afraid of you then you are of them,“ the lifeguard assured us.
So tell me, is that why you’re on land, Baywatch Boy?!
We were then instructed to get on our hands and knees on the shallow ledge (a perfect time for the prayer position). Then we were to push out into the 10-foot deep lagoon and use our arms to propel us.
This is about the time my 9-year-old freaked out.
Micah: What am I supposed to do, Mom?! It’s too deep!!
Me: Just grab my hand and we’ll swim together.
Micah translated this as “Grab Mom around the neck and pull her under.”
As I gasped for air, I heard a cheery voice yell: “Just relax! Swim with your arms.”
I’m about to drown in shark-infested waters. You relax, woman.
We were able to flail to the sandbar in the middle of the lagoon and regain our bearings.
Me: Okay, you can’t do that, Micah. I can’t breathe.
Micah: I can’t get down on my knees, Mom! It’s too deep!
Now I pictured a new headline: "Boy and Mom Marooned in Shark Pool! Footage at 11!"
Me (teeth chattering): You can do this. I know you can. We’ll do it together, okay?
Micah (whimpering): Okay.
We pushed off together, holding hands.
Gradually, he let go of my grasp and began swimming on his own.
I spotted the hammerhead beneath me (about three or four feet long) as I neared the steps.
And I lived to blog about it.
Today – the first day of school -- I sent Molly to swim with sharks of a different kind. And next week I’ll send Micah. Every day I release them into a sea of media, cultural and peer influences that, frankly, scare the heck out of me. I want to grasp them tight. But as they’re getting older, they’re gradually moving away. I have to gradually let them go.
I can’t shield them from every influence. I can’t be there to make every choice.
But I can be the counter influence. I’ve been troubled recently when I think of the amount of media we’ve allowed our kids to consume this summer. I can’t control the sharks outside my doors, but I do have the power to keep them from coming inside.
The sharks are always circling. So the media limits are back. But I have to do more than just limit bad influence. I need to always be deliberate in encouraging a relationship with their Creator.
Knowing their value in Him might not keep them out of the shark tank. But it will give them the ability to swim safely to shore.
Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; he will neither fail you nor abandon you. Deuteronomy 31:8 (New Living Translation)