Taking Flight

Blue and Green (ages 11 & 10) signed on for a month away at summer camp. Without mom.

This is about letting go. About putting a smile on my face and a little bounce in my step as I walk my children to the gate and stand in place while they scamper onto to the plane without me, waving goodbye - and then the smile falls away and is replaced by blinking and rhythmic chest patting and I stumble over to the big window to see if I can catch one more glimpse of them through the porthole window before they are tucked into their seats in that huge plane.

This is about realizing that, from the moment they were separated from my body at birth, their milestones are defined by how much they can do without Mommy. In the back of my mind I know that the final goal - what I truly want for them - is to be completely independent, self-reliant men and that it will take years of small steps, incremental progressions from not needing to be carried, to walking without holding my fingers, to having only my voice near them reminding them to look both ways before they cross, to only the memory of my voice after they say, "I'm going out! See you later, Mom!"

Each step away leaves an aftertaste of labor: of the agony of opening up and releasing something that has only ever been mine.

In a feelings-obsessed world, it's hard to see the rightness in doing something that feels so wrong, so unnatural, so painful. It's hard to think that I'm doing the right thing by sending my two boys off for a month to a great summer camp...because it hurts to see them leave, it hurts to get the homesick letters saying, "HELP! I need to get out of here. I want to come home!"

Boys, in order to become men, need to fight dragons. I make it my mission to keep whatever dragons must hang around my house small and domesticated because home is the safe place. In order to encounter the dragons worth fighting, they are going to have to venture further out - further out from me. The crazy thing about this whole dragon-slaying business - about growing up in general - is that it's both what I want most for my children and what I dread most for them as well.

I watched their plane taxi away from the airport and I ran the length of the terminal to watch them liftoff and I walked back to my car alone, wondering at the incongruity of the two urges I felt. My whispered message to their empty seats was, "I want you back here with me...and I'm so proud that - when the moment called for it - you went forward without looking back."



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