My son was accepted into college in December 2020 and will be moving to the East Coast in the fall. With all the excitement that entails, I feel scared. For the past two days, I’ve participated in a workshop with Rockwood Leadership Institute called The Art of Navigating Change. Participants were asked to bring a “wicked problem” to the session. Having given some thought to what to choose, I kept coming back to the same one: my fear, maybe better described as terror, at letting my oldest son go out into the world alone. There are many dimensions to my fear, which I won’t get into here, but the crux of it is that I don’t trust the world. I do trust mother earth, but not necessarily her inhabitants.
As I gave more thought to this, I realized that it’s a mindset largely influenced by how one experiences the world. My primary concern for safety is based on my gender. I, for example, don’t feel safe walking alone, at night, anywhere, ever. I do not experience the world as a safe place.
When discussing my “wicked problem” the people in my small group reminded me that I must also take in the joy he’s about to encounter: the opportunity to come into himself in a new way, to make lasting friendships, to explore relationships, and to experience the East Coast. I tried to take in their wise council. I want to turn off that part of my brain that knows too much. How can I entrust my baby to the world when I don’t trust it? My son has had a good life – I want to protect that for him, and I can’t.
I remember the day in 1980 when my mother said goodbye to me at the airport as she returned to New Jersey, leaving me in Berkeley, California. I can picture the tears in her eyes. I had no patience for them. I was ready to begin my new life and I’ve been on the West Coast ever since. I’ve always thought of myself as footloose and fancy-free when it comes to relationships of all kinds. Now I’m all tears.
As a parent, I have to let go and understand that the “wicked problem” might simply be not having my worries define his experience and giving him the freedom to learn about the world with all the good and bad that entails. I have to let him find his own joy and his own sorrow and that, right about now, feels wicked hard.
Photo by Nick Fewings www.unsplash.com