There was never any plan – not a scripted one – not the way some parents claim, “Oh, I always knew he would grow up to be a ___.” Fill in that blank with whatever college mascot or professional endeavor one’s social circle deems the best.
No, I had no visions of who or what my children would be; I still don’t. I really do want all three of them to pursue endeavors that will lead them to be able to create the kind of life they want to live. When youngest son says that he wants to be a drag queen, and then, “when my looks start to go, I’ll teach middle school,” I smile and think, “That’s not a bad plan.” In fact, I privately think of this as the mullet plan: business in the front, party in the back.
But last Tuesday I got a series of text messages from eldest son announcing that he is moving to Peru. Today. This day. February 16, 2016. He plans to hike and survive in Peru and perhaps beyond for as long as he wants to – on his own. Alone.
My imagination is one quarter made-for-TV movie, one quarter horrific documentary, and two quarters overthinking. I suppose all parents believe that they support what their children want to do; the thing about that is: sometimes our children want to do stuff we never thought of and we wish they hadn’t. So, I’m worried and scared and a little sad.
The last time he traveled internationally he was three and slept with his brother in the bulkhead of an SAS jet, cuddling a new teddy bear from Copenhagen. Hiking and camping in South America will be different than that. Of course, he has email; he says he’ll be in semi-regular touch.
There are all kinds of quotes that extol the importance and requirement of letting children go, allowing them seek their own paths, not trying to control, and allowing for followed passions. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I believe all of that shit, but when it means your son is moving far away to be in semi-regular contact – well, that’s the test, isn’t it? One thing to say you believe something, and it’s quite another to be forced to live that out.
Perhaps you are better at this than I am. You have always said what you believed, believed what you said, and lived it out. If so, I have certainly tried to follow your example, but this one’s a little harder for me. Still, I have to believe he can do this and love it and learn from it. Right? It’s not about me; it’s about his finding his way to that life that he wants. Right? If we don’t have faith in our kids, then something’s gone wrong. Right?
So, join me.
No, seriously – join me. Come over, bring some wine and kleenex, and hold my hand. This one might take me a minute.