This week contained one of those strange, unmarked, parenting milestones for me. My boys are 2, 4, and 6. And I am beginning to enter that long, drawn out stage of letting go. Oh not big things yet, but it is happening. My oldest going to school off the hill next year, my middle one running over to camp to Daddy without me clinging to his hand, my youngest playing on the big toy at lake Chelan and shunning all assistance. It has begun to occur.
Last month we rode a school bus for the first time and this was a big step for me. No seat-belts or car-seats, trusting our lives to an unknown driver…. But all 3 boys sat in my lap and I made them hold my pockets as we tromped off the bus. But this week was something different. It was staff training week for camp and my boys and I rode down to lake Chelan on the bus with the counselors. Not only were they riding a bus like big boys, not strapped into car-seats, but they didn’t even want to sit by me! Sweet Boy#1 and Sweet Boy#2 claimed a nice seat just a bit back from the bus driver and there were no empty places next to them. So Sweet Boy#3 and I walked back back back until we found a seat on the other side. Now as the director’s wife I could have kicked some counselors out and created a seat next to my two independent sons. But I didn’t and that was big for me.
The boys had chosen a seat next to Shinobi and Splinter. Two of our beloved “floor guys”. I asked them to keep an eye on my sons and then enjoyed the ride with my youngest, who still wants to sit with Momma. But then we came to the hill. Now if any of you have ever driven from Wenatchee to Chelan, you know what I’m talking about. Just before the tunnel there is this long winding hill that snakes up up up the butte until the massive Columbia river is just a stretch of blue far below on your right and a craggy cliff face bars all escape on the left. I hate the hill. Now I have never even heard of anyone plummeting off the cliff into the icy waters below. I don’t even know if you would hit the water, there are lots of boulders as well. But nonetheless I fear the hill. And as we began to ascend my sad little mind began to plot. I read the instructions on the rear emergency door so that I would be proficient in its use as we soared to our doom. I pictured myself wrapping myself around Sweet Boy#3 so that he would be insulated against being smashed against the side of the bus as we fell, and I imagined myself rushing up the isle past seat after seat of screaming counselors to grab Sweet Boy#2 and Sweet Boy#1 and then dragging all of them back to the emergency exit, shoving them out into the icy waters and swimming all three of them to safety without the use of my arms because I would be clutching them tightly against the deadly currents….
This scenario presented several problems. I was stunned. I couldn’t save them all. There was no conceivable way. But I had to!!! I realized that a tiny bit of trust was in order. I would simply crawl up the isle of the bus, jab at the two counselors until they awakened, and assign Shinobi to swim Sweet Boy#1 to safety and charge Splinter with the care of Sweet Boy#2. Yes yes, it would be slightly embarrassing to reveal the full depths of my motherly paranoia to these young men who had never spent an anxious moment in their short invincible lives worrying about who would swim their babies to the surface should we plunge from the road. But embarrassment I could handle. But then I stopped, and it wasn’t shame or pride that did it. I realized something terribly profound. Profound for me at least. Profound for a mom of three little boys who is taking those first tiny steps toward letting go.
I realized that these two particular boys had spent many a night crashed on our living room floor after board gaming with the hunky hubby. That they had awakened many a morning to the ecstatic shouts of three small boys launching themselves onto them with delighted glee and wrestling their heads until they had to awaken in order to breathe. I have watched both of these boys grow up and I have watched them with my sons and it came to me like the surf is want to douse an unwary loiterer. These boys loved my sons. And to demand that they risk themselves to save them would be insulting. Because in the unlikely occurrence of the terrible, they wouldn’t think twice. Me, the woman who has everything planned out. Who did not flinch from debating with the hunky hubby about which of us would unroll the windows and which would unbuckle the car-seats if we drove into the fierce Colombia, yes it actually occurred. I Kristen Joy Wilks realized that assigning a boy for each of them to rescue would not change the outcome of a crash in the least. Because they would have done it anyway. I didn’t even need to ask.
And I didn’t.
Because slowly slowly a mother begins to let go. And like the ancient movements of a glacier toward the sea, a mother begins loosen her hold ever so slightly and allow herself to trust.