Four days ago, my 11 year old, first born boy departed to Science Camp — all on his own. He left in a haze. Literally, he left in a chemical cloud that was equal parts lice repellant shampoo, lice repellant gel, SPF 50 sunscreen and a dousing of “Off” bug spray. It was my pathetic, last attempt to try and protect him.
You see, this would be his first adventure all on his own. No mom. No dad. No grandparent, aunt, uncle, adult friend who knew him since he was a babe and loved him like their own. No one that would proactively watch out for him. No one to run in and save him from a burning building. “If the building is on fire – YOU get yourself out.” Those were my parting words. Yes – I know I’m neurotic, but it should be pointed out that I did let him go. I.let.him.go.
That’s when, it struck me. All his life, I have only entrusted him with adults that I knew (without hesitation) would go running into a burning building if my husband and I weren’t there. Yet, I let him trot off to science camp with two buddies and some contraband Cliff Bars hidden at the bottom of his backpack. It’s about this point that sheer panic set in.
His parting words to me: “Mom, I promise. I’ll be present.” I’m on his case all the time about being aware (eyes wide open) so that he doesn’t step into oncoming traffic, and also to be fully “present” to the good things coming down the road too.
I let him go because I trusted him. I knew he would do great. I knew he would succeed and exceed his expectations (and mine). I knew he was ready. The problem – I wasn’t ready. I. was.not.ready.
For the last couple years, I was in a place of comfort. Both my kids were at the same elementary – the same sweet faces and safe places. Their friends are our family friends. Their outings are our adventures. That arm’s length reach had become my contented comfort.
Now a member of the middle school tribe, I’m feeling the jarring effects that change brings with it every day. We’ve survived PE despite having his shoes and clothes stolen in the first month. He willfully skipped the first “social,” which was okay by me after reading “no bumping or grinding allowed.” (Of course, he’s hip to attend the next dance.) We’ve survived school days that start at 7 and end at 5, followed by homework, music practice and a tired kid (and mama) that fall into bed.
Each day I tell him both the good and the bad of middle school are simply life’s lessons. I don’t know if the words are a pep talk for him or a reminder to me. And, it seems he loves his new school, new responsibilities and new freedoms. It’s a good fit.
Yet, somehow I know I’ll never know that sweet feeling of contented comfort again because where the rubber meets the road of life, we’ll always choose adventure, life, and groWTH for our kids. (Even if my natural ‘copter tendency is to run for the bubble wrap and Off spray!)