A Lesson I Learned at the Water Park

Barbara Cheney

June 5, 2024

Joey and Carla Link were in Tennessee to present a parenting seminar. As GFI Leaders, we welcomed them to stay in our home for the weekend. I remember Carla sitting with me at my kitchen table and asking me what issues I’d like help with. As I gave her a list, she began to smile and tell me that most of the issues involved “freedoms”. Freedoms… Hmm. I needed help with that one. 

Meanwhile, Joey thought it would be a great idea for us to visit the Water Park in Nashville for the day. My husband was working so he was not able to go with us. I was uncertain about this; I knew it would be a long day in many ways! Carla cheerfully said she’d help me all through the day when I needed advice. So off we went.

Our younger son was about 5 then, and Carla’s youngest, Amy was almost 7. When we reached the wave pool, both Carla and I explained to our kids the boundaries. They were not to cross beyond a certain marking on the wall, as the wave pool would agitate and knock them over if they should lose their footing. 

All went well for a while, and then the first wave hit. Our younger son, Bryan, was beyond the marker. I hustled out to him and brought him back, reminding him of the rules. As the waters calmed, he was free to go out again. We repeated this scenario again and again. As I headed back to the shoreline after taking him out one more time, I saw Carla calmly (very calmly) sitting at the edge of the water in a large inner tube, and her daughter, Amy, seated in another quite near her. I asked Amy if she was tired of the water and she told me she was sitting because she had gone past the marker. I had been reminding and repeating with our son throughout the day. Carla had simply enforced a boundary and Amy had lost the freedom to be out in the water. 

Amy went on to tell me she had already gone through the repentance, forgiveness and restoration process, and was now sitting as a consequence and her mama would tell her when she could go back in the water. Carla leaned over and told her it would be extra time for every minute she kept talking. She folded her hands in her lap and didn’t say another word. I thought Carla would let her go back in after 5-7 minutes or so, but she didn’t. After 30 minutes, she told Amy she could go back in, and told her the next time she had to go get her, she would not go in the pool again. 

It suddenly dawned on me. I was working too hard at remembering the “rules” while Bryan wasn’t working on remembering them at all! Carla was calmly enjoying the water, and looking at me with a smile. I realized with a shock that my reminding and repeating had not done anything except given me a headache. I wanted to be seated with her in my own tube and enjoying her company!

As the day went on, I learned much about the concept of “freedoms” — they have to be earned, not taken. Freedoms come with demonstrated responsibility. All through the rest of the day, I watched and learned as Joey and Carla each spent time enjoying the pool as well as working with their children’s freedoms. The end result for me was the realization that I could grow as a parent and move from reminding and repeating to resting in letting my children experience consequences of taking freedoms they had no right to. It was a great day at the Water Park for me!

We first met Barb Cheney and her husband Terry at a parenting conference with Growing Families Int’l. The Cheney’s went on to lead parenting classes as their sons grew up.  Barb has worked for many years as a high school English teacher. They live in the greater Nashville, TN area and have 2 grown sons.


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