• Carly Rae

Happy Children Make for Happy Parents

Visiting the Great Barrier Reef in Australia had been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember. I obtained my scuba diving certification in my early 20’s, hoping to dive there one day. However, I never would have imagined that I would find myself travelling to the reef through the very choppy waters on a nauseating two-hour boat ride with my husband and three young daughters in tow. I was supposed to be doing this as a single and care-free woman, not as a middle-aged wife and mother.

Not only had it been a dream of mine, but my Australian husband had wanted to take me there ever since we met. Finally, we got the opportunity to go, but as a family holiday. It was decided that we would dive while having the kids chaperoned on the boat. I wanted to have the experience just as we had imagined it…’on our own.’

I felt so excited as I put my dive tank on my back, checked my gauges and cleaned my mask. However, my excitement was suddenly replaced with feelings of anxiety as my three young daughters began to complain.

“Don’t go!” The little one said, starting to cry.

“It’s not fair! You are leaving us, and we want to see the fish!” The middle one complained in a cranky tone.

“I want to come!” The oldest one pleaded.

I tried to smooth things over by talking up their young, cool babysitter and buying them soft drinks, but it was to no avail. Before I stepped off the boat, I looked at their sad miserable faces. I felt this terrible pang in my gut. I tried to convince myself that I deserved this and stepped off the boat.

As I began my descent to the bottom of the ocean, I started panicking. Was I scared? Was I too rusty from not diving in a while? Was I feeling guilty for leaving my kids? No, it wasn’t any of that. I just kept thinking about my girls on the deck shivering from the cold and sick from the boat ride. The deeper I went down into the ocean the more I felt the depth of their absence.

I realised at this point that I had let go of the “old me” a long time ago. The person that used to selfishly do what they wanted when they wanted. After all, I wasn’t the single twenty-something adventurous woman who dived with turtles in Thailand and sharks in America anymore. I was a forty-something responsible wife and mum who truly wanted to share an adventure with her kids in the Great Barrier Reef.

So, I let myself rise to the surface and signalled for my girls to join me. They excitedly grabbed their snorkelling gear and jumped in. As I guided them away from the boat I instantly felt at ease and totally content. We saw our first giant sea turtle and a school of rainbow fish. We all hugged in the water and talked through our snorkels as we plumbed the depths, making the experience even more special than I could have imagined.

When my parents told me that the best day of their lives was my wedding day, rather than their own I didn’t really get it. But I do now. I guess happy children make for happy parents.

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