A mother-child relationship never quite changes. When a mother carries her child for 9 months, bears the toll of childbirth (especially in the pre-epidural anesthesia era), and spends countless days caring for that child through infancy, childhood and adolescence, the feelings of love, nurturing, protection and guidance are profound and constant while disappointment, worry and pride are also occasional parts of the equation. That relationship and those feelings do not change even as the child becomes a young adult and moves on into their middle age years.
And it especially becomes true when that child takes on an activity with the inherent risk of channel swimming. The thoughts, worries and stress of a mother vis-à-vis her child as they announce their plans, move forward with their training and stand on the shoreline are often overwhelming. Especially when that child explains their intentions to “either finish or be involuntarily pulled from the water” or other such focused bravado. A finish – a completion of a goal – is certainly worth pursuing, but a failure or an involuntary cessation of forward progress is definitely not what a mother wants to her about her child.
With GPS and online tracking systems following their child on a channel swim, the pressure must be even greater. Imagine staring at a computer screen seeing a tiny dot move ever so slowly across the screen. The mother can only worry about her child being cold, being battered by the elements, at night and over many hours. The inner pain of a mother thinking about the discomfort of her baby, her child, her son, her daughter weighs heavily on her mind.
A father-daughter or a father-son relationship is also profound. The father, a symbol of strength in the household, is unable to assist his child in the harsh environment of the ocean. While the father can easily remember all those life moments where he tucked his child into bed or carried them on his shoulders and taught them how to ride a bike or drive a car, he is now rendered helpless when his son or daughter is cold, seasick or physically spent. He can only hope for the best as his child bears the brunt of Mother Nature and the distance and dynamics of the open water. His instincts to protect and help his child remain, but his power to act is eliminated.
And yet when that child becomes triumphant and achieves their goal, the maternal pride blossoms like a dormant flower after a long winter. The paternal nature to celebrate the success of a child kicks into overdrive. The ambiance of the household, the wide smile across her face, the desire to tell her friends and neighbors of her child’s success is overwhelmingly joyful.
Some things never change…from a child in nappies to one’s child in Speedos.
Photo shows Freda Streeter whose daughter Alison is the Queen of the Channel® with her 43 successful crossings as well as dozens of other successful marathon and channel swims around the world. Both mother and child are members of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame.
Copyright © 2012 by Open Water Source