This week I announced we are sending 17-year-old Jake on a 2 week Outward Bound trip. As much as I hate to admit it, there is so much that bothers me about this trip that I can’t believe I am paying this much cash for this level of (good for you in a sick way) torture. This adventure has become step one to sending Jake out of the nest, but there are so many nuances that I’m hesitant I’m doing any of it right. Jake is my first kid. I had him young and for awhile it was just us going through life together. And I’m totally guilty for hanging onto that “just us” notion for far too long.
In all reality, this whole adventure is signaling that we are both growing up.
That’s embarrassing to admit, but it is what it is. At this point I’m assuming his teen to adult transition is harder on me than it is on him–but isn’t that the way it always is? The more I think about what bugs me, the more I discover that I have just as much to learn as he does. The best part is that Outward Bound is teaching both of us so much already. Torture indeed: It would be so much easier to just keep on helicopter-momming and not change along side him. But that’s not who I am–or at least who I want to be.
After my interview with Jake, I realized that I had a problem with him thinking that he can just summit a mountain with no training. I couldn’t get over his nonchalance with being thrown to the wolves in his interview below. But at the same time, I had to flip this annoyance around on myself. Would I want him to be too scared to go? Definitely not–but the mom in me is shouting: you can’t do this without being ready! While the teenager in him is replying watch me.
Well, Isn’t that what I signed him up for?
Of course it is. But it doesn’t take away the little things that will undoubtedly come up right up until he goes. I’m a little irked because he acts as if this whole gig is for him to prove something to me. He apparently already knows he will make it. He already knows everything there is to know about the outdoors and survival–in life and in the wild. The best thing I can do is let him prove that to himself out there.
I’m learning that it isn’t the act of pushing my kids out of the nest that hurts. It’s not the separation or the worry of emptiness over the missing kid in your house. Nor is it the terror in pushing them out and watching them potentially plummet to the ground, hereby demonstrating years of parenting failures. The real pain comes from realizing that he left long ago, and hasn’t needed me for years. And maybe worse still, that I’ve been doing things without the awareness that I’m not helping him “adult” at all. So then, my Outward Bound assignment is to continue to acknowledge that if he says he can, he can–and that if he can’t, well then, it’s up to him to find out.
I think it’s every moms dream for their child to have this very clear-cut transition point from teen to adulthood. We see what only looks like success all around us: graduating at the top of their high school class, sports scholarships, Ivy league, great job, kids of their own, a happy spouse and a nice spacious home. But the truth is, it’s not straightforward at all. And that is only surface level success. It is the success that we want for them because ultimately it reflects on us–alas, we’re great parents.
But when I think about it in the context of Jake, I have no idea what success looks like for him. All I can do is show him what it might look like–high up and overcoming fears on a glacier, for instance.
Despite the push and pull of these transitional parenting challenges, I’m not giving up. My ultimate goal is to raise this kid into a healthy adult human who cares about himself and sees the value in what he can contribute. That means however he gets there, his own way, will be the best way.
Onward and Upward,