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Buddy Breathing

Going through some boxes in a closet at my mom’s this weekend I found the snorkel, mask, and fins from when dad and I took a diving certification course together. I was in high school and he wanted to get certified. Never one to turn down an opportunity to spend time with my dad, I was excited when he asked me if I wanted to do it too.

We dutifully sat through classes, did the pool exercises such as putting all your gear on underwater, etc and studied for exams together. The one evening of the class I remember more than any other was the pool exercise on “buddy breathing”. This is the practice of two divers sharing one regulator/tank by taking turns. This is typically only done in emergency situations when one divers equipment is not operating properly. For the purposes of instruction and testing we had to show competence in this exercise…and just to make things even more interesting they had us do it in complete darkness. Anyone who has used scuba equipment knows how amazing it feels to breathe underwater, but also how tenuous that feeling of safety and security can be.

When it came time to do this I was scared, but in true “Wise family” fashion, we went for it. In order not to panic, which several people were, you had to have 100% confidence in your partner. Nothing less. I had that in my dad. We did fine. It was one of many times in my life that I knew that my unfailing trust in him allowed me to have an experience I will never forget.

The symbolism of the act of buddy breathing is much more to me though than just being there for the ones you love when they are in distress. It also symbolizes the give and take in our day-to-day lives. We give so much of ourselves to our children, some tangible, much of it intangible. In return they give us more than they will ever know. Many times people have commented to me on the intensity of dedication we have to Virginia and Kimberly, particularly related to Kimberly’s extra needs. While it is without hesitation that we give, there is often a struggle to maintain ourselves. It is what we get back from them: the love and affection, and watching them grow, that helps to sustain us.

An important component of this giving and receiving is trust. As a parent, that unwavering trust should be one of our top priorities in the development of relationships with our children. It doesn’t mean never being wrong, but more so how you handle it. How you handle yourself. How you handle adversity. I knew my dad would be there when I needed him, and that comfort and surety gave me the strength I needed to succeed.

On the days when I feel tapped, truly as if I have nothing left, I have to remind myself of this. I want my girls to know that if they need me, I am there. Wholly and Always. This security seems to be harder to come by for families all the time, however it doesn’t take just one form. Parents can provide this certainty together as a couple, as single parents and in blended families. I am thankful everyday that my parents provided it for me and I still feel it so strongly today. Even though my dad passed away four years ago, he is still with me, by my side, Wholly and Always.

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