Our new place is a short walk to a park with a fishing pond. As we walk along the road to the pond, Addison and I fill our pockets with little flat stones. Skipping stones is a new skill that Addison is keen to learn. As I skip a rock, she counts the splashes: "One . . . two . . . threefourfivesix!" And when she tosses her own rock like a shot-putter hurling a cannonball, she waits for the single massive splash and shouts, "Whoa! A MILLION splashes!"
We go to the pond almost every day. I scan the ground for likely candidates as we walk. My heart skips a beat when I pick up a really quality skipping rock, something with a comfortable heft and a nice place to curl my finger around it. The kind of skipping rock that's so beautifully formed, so perfect for its purpose, that you save it for last and then don't want to use it after all. Because in the end, the very best skipping rock is the one that skips the farthest and then sinks into the depths, beyond recovery. Such great potential paired with the heartbreak of such a singular moment, a brief triumph that can never be repeated.
As I watched my daughter bend down to pick up stones in the dirt shoulder of the road, I considered her little self. So perfectly formed, and fitting so comfortably in my hand. I kind of just want to keep her in my pocket and never let her go.
But really (I have to keep telling myself this), raising a kid is like having a perfect skipping stone that's MAGIC. You throw it out, and it skips incredibly, beautifully across the surface. And then it comes BACK. It always comes back. So long as you've treasured it, cradled it in the palm of your hand, loved it with all you have. So long as you pause a moment before launch, breathless, preparing yourself mentally for all that will come. If your throw is true and pure, imbued with the experience of many past successes and many hours of practice. If you've earned the stone's love, it comes back.
And then, one day, the stone will learn that it can throw itself. All those times when you launched it out there with your heart in your throat -- they were all for this purpose. So that someday, even when you're not there, the stone will keep throwing itself out there, and keep skipping gracefully, magnificently across the surface, and never sink to the bottom.
"Whoa! A MILLION splashes!"