Last weekend my eighteen year old son told me he wants to go to Australia this summer. By himself. Alone. Many thousands of miles away. Without me. “That’s great” I squeaked out. In the same moment I was both proud and terrified. Proud that I had raised a son who felt confident enough to travel half way around the world by himself. Terrified that he would indeed go half way around the world by himself. You work for eighteen years to prepare them for something like this and then when it happens you just want to yell “No, not yet. You’re not ready.” Or are they?
I remember the first time I let him go into a public washroom by himself. It was at the outdoor pool during the summer that he was seven years old. I wasn’t sure he, or should I say I, was ready for this. After he went in I stood at the entrance and waited a few minutes trying to calculate in my head how long it would take for him to do his business. Why was he taking so long? Had somebody gone in and was talking to him? My heart started to race. Should I go in? Could I ask that man to check on him? What if that man was a pedophile? Just as I was getting to the point where I was going to walk into the washroom myself, my son walked out. I think I hugged him. I think he pushed me away and looked at my like I was crazy. He was fine. Of course he was fine. Why had I been so worried?
When he was seventeen he got his driver’s license. In the early learning days I tried really hard not to take the wheel from him just to make a small adjustment, so we didn’t hit the curb. Eventually the times I had to bite my tongue and not scream “SLOW DOWN” got less and less. He ended up taking lessons and doing many hours in-car with a real instructor. He passed on the first try. I was so proud. And so terrified. For the first ten months (at least) when he was out at night with the car I would lay awake waiting for the sound of the front door to open. If you have a new driver and you can say that you haven’t worried about them being involved in an accident, you are a huge liar. I do have faith in his driving ability but you have no control over all the other crazies out there and well, he is still a teenager. Yet now, a year later I don’t worry so much. Liar.
What was I doing when I was his age? Oh god, what wasn’t I doing? A few months shy of eighteen I boarded a train for Banff, Alberta. I had a job to go to and would be living in the staff residence, but I didn’t know anybody there and had never traveled or lived on my own. Keep in mind that I had graduated only three months earlier from an all girls private school. I was the youngest employee at the hotel and was told by human resources not to tell anybody that I wasn’t actually eighteen yet. Imagine two or three hundred eighteen to twenty-five year olds (male and female) living in a building behind the hotel. Sure, we were working at the hotel, but when we weren’t working we were….well, we weren’t going to bible study that’s for sure. You name it and I probably saw it or tried it and yet I’m still here to tell about it. I wonder what my parents were thinking? Were they worrying about me? If they were, they certainly didn’t show it or say anything. In fact I don’t remember speaking to them much that year.
It’s has just dawned on me that the fact that they didn’t show me or tell me that they were worried about me is probably why I was able to do this on my own. I never questioned whether or not I was capable or scared or nervous. It never occurred to me that I was in any danger or that if I was, that I wouldn’t be okay. If they had been calling me every day to check on me, not only would I be annoyed, but I may have started to think that there was something to be concerned about. By letting me go and experience life untethered they taught me that I could be independent and make wise choices. Thank God I wrote this or my poor son would never make it to the airport.
The Best Thing in Life is learning to let go.