My mom has taken my older two kids (Mr G and Mr B) off on a two week jaunt around the US Southwest and West. They're due back on Tuesday night.
It has been interesting as a parent to follow my mental track along this process.
At first, I was very fretful - were they going to be okay, would there be enough that B could eat on his diet, would there be enough that G would like enough to eat. Would they get along with their cousin L, or create friction? Would they be helpful? Safe, Respectful, Kind? Would their choices be Effective, Prudent, True?
I fretted most about food and medicine - health and wellbeing being so core to what a mom's job is.
And then I heaved sighs and winced over behavior. Hormones! Mr G playing it cool, a little too disengaged at times, a little too testosterone poisoned at others. Decorum, please? Show that you understand the rules of society, at least a bit (but still find ways to have real let-down-the-hair fun).
I tracked their routes daily, doing flyovers of what they were seeing on Google Earth. I wrote up notes on Facebook for family and friends, hunted up good photos, thought about what they were doing.
I let go.
Took me a bit over a week. Which I suppose isn't too bad, given that they're 12 and 8, but maybe a bit long given they're with my mom. It isn't like she'll let them fall through a crack, starve, or make stupid choices. She will let them make mistakes, but just enough room to feel the ouch, and not enough room to cause damage.
The whole point of this trip is that it is a coming of age journey. Being out in the world among strangers, seeing the vastness of our nation, touching down on the things that were our family experience as children (since we grew up in Colorado and spent a lot of summers driving similar routes). They're doing daily journals, and sketching what they see, and tending to their spirits (my mom being the retired minister). They brought an altar cloth made just for this trip, and a chalice to light each day, and things to think about that are beyond just 'wow that's pretty, what's next?'
It's a growing up opportunity for them, and for me.
Acceptant hasn't been too hard for me with my kids - they have always been insistent on being who they are. Any time I don't accept that, humbly, the ouch resides only with me. Authenticity is in their blood, and we have supported that all along, with school choices and activities, discussions over dinner, and listening to the emotional earthquakes they weather through the normal course of life.
Loving, either. Fierce wolf mama, here, but also that easy watching of them with the smile and that sense of being flooded with love, immersed beyond anything that ever was before they were in my life. It permeates every cell and fiber.
Faithful is the harder one for me, so far. Granted, I'm dealing with children, still. I am their backstop, the safety net, and the responsible party. Along with others, of course, but for me this is a deeply held process. My mom was the teacher of competence, primarily. She was the one who taught me how to shop, not by doing it with me, but by talking me through the thinking process, and then sending me off to do it on my own, then discussing the results. She's also the one who stood there looking so loving and sad, as I stood there in her bedroom doorway, and told me that she could not make my choices for me, it was up to me to choose my own way, and that the hardest thing she ever did as a parent was to watch her child struggle and do nothing. It was also the most important. I remember turning away from her doorway, still sobbing in my teenage misery, but feeling stronger somehow, more able, trusted. She had faith that even if I made the wrong choice I could right it again, find my way through. It isn't that she didn't talk with me about stuff, it was just that the decision was mine, when it came to my own life.
Some areas of faithful I have no trouble with, but the totally letting go, having this process be outside my life and control, took a few days.
My mom has only called a few times, and none of those times have I spoken with my children. She's given a little feedback, asked some questions, told the upper level stories of her own experience (having fun, most days).
She called again this morning, and this time talked with epeepunk. He listened, laughed, talked about funds for a couple of additional purchases in Navajo Country. And then hung up.
I expected my gut to go HEY, I NEEDED TO TALK TO HER! I expected to need to be that one step closer in the link between me and them, tighter in the information chain.
But I didn't. I just felt that rush of love, golden flooding through my veins, joy at their joy, humbled again by their presence in my life. Acceptant of their them-ness, Loving as an act of letting them go outside my reach without trying to catch them back at every juncture, and Faithful that they will grow into themselves beautifully along the way, do well, thrive, and where they struggle, find resources and new paths and new strengths and skills. They'll figure it out, not without the net, but without having the net create a single path for them to take.
I miss them, but not terribly. Even the missing them is Acceptant, Loving, and Faithful, now. I think that's good practice for later. Coming of age isn't just for the child, but for the rest of the family to remember that this person is not always going to be a child.
What a fabulous gift for them all.