"Mom, I'm going in."
While sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean last month, surrounded by boatloads of children, I heard that phrase over and over and over and over and over and over ....
It could be translated like this:
"Mom (or Dad), quit talking to your friend. Mom, quit reading. Mom, quit basking. Mom, quit eating your water ice."
In other words: "Mom (or Dad), pay attention to me while I'm in the ocean."
It's a good practice that these kids - most of whom have grown up on the Jersey Shore - have learned. And a good practice that their parents have learned. Many of the parents have spent the summers of their lives there, as well.
But every time I heard the sentence, "Mom, I'm going in," I couldn't help myself from thinking about it on a larger scale.
They were going in ... immersing themselves in life.
I could see these kids jumping into their futures with both feet, whether it be as an oceanographer, a parent, an artist, a paleontologist, a barber, a teacher ... they're going in and they're giving it their all.
And they've had their parents' watchful eyes upon them, keeping them safe, but allowing them to explore and to learn.
I imagined these children stepping off the safe, soft sand, into unknown worlds, just as they have done for all their summers.
They're going in ... and they'll be just fine.
Phyllis R. Sigal is design editor at The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register and designer of Ohio Valley Parent. She is the mom of Amanda, soon to be 25, and Leland, 23.