I promised to write about camping. So, here I am. When I'm on a different computer, I'll post pictures, too.
We spent 3 nights, 4 days at Whitewater State Park in southern Minnesota where the rumors proved true that there are indeed very few mosquitos at Whitewater. "We" included myself, Mango, Vespera, Mane & Novio. Yes, everything, including the gluten free groceries, fit in the Subaru Forester, though somehow it all took up the same amount of space on the way home, though we had eaten most of the food. We learned that Mane can hike longer than all the rest of us combined, that last year's flood left rock piles on the sides of the river full of all kinds of interesting gems, and that cool nights and warm days make perfect camping weather, as long as you have a warm enough sleeping bag.
We also learned, again, that we have the best family ever, that we can do anything, and that some major bumps in the road - like a trip to the emergency room and another trip to the sporting good's store in Rochester to get warmer nighttime gear -don't have to ruin a trip. We *still* came home raving about what a great trip it was, and I made reservations today for our next camping trip in August. We're troopers, and we have a sense of humor.
Everything in my life these days has something to do with letting go, with breaking free, with loosening my grip a little bit. This trip included the aforementioned major events that required some letting go, but those aren't the things that really pierced my heart and taught me something. I handle major catastrophes pretty well. What lays my heart open this year is something that most parents experience sooner or later...the letting go of their children. And I realized something. Letting our children go doesn't mean that we have a sudden rush of relief that we're no longer responsible for them or that now we can relax and believe that everything will be fine. In fact, seeing them move away, get married, have their own children simply provides more opportunity for anxiety and more things and people to be anxious about. Which means, that unless I can take this anxiety to the cross, I'm stuck with it...and more...for the rest of my life. Nice thought, eh?
To what do I owe this sudden preoccupation with letting go? Well, I owe it to Novio and his presence on our trip, of course...his responsible, compassionate, humorous, and gracious presence. Vespera & Novio began dating over 14 months ago now, a little over a year, and their relationship continues to deepen in a way that seems to be leading toward a lifelong commitment. I saw the way they work and play together, the way they tease and protect each other, the way Vespera is tranferring some of her reliance on myself and Mango to reliance on Novio. And I am practicing the oft-neglected art of staying out of the way. It's a careful dance - knowing when to speak up and when to be quiet, when to carefully plant a word of advice and when to wait it out.
I *do* see and acknowledge how this "letting go" is not a real letting go at all but only a change of roles. And I see how Vespera's eventual commitment to a lifelong partner will involve more gain than loss for all of us...a son for us, possible grandchildren. Wow. Too much to think about. I have to admit I love the feeling that we're building a more full family. I love having 5 people on a trip. I love the way we troop around together. I love the way it feels comfortable and natural, the way Mango and I take up our role together as partners and parents.
I am dizzy with how fast my life has changed in the last few years. Just barely over two years ago I would never have imagined that I'd be sending a daughter to college next year, or thinking of her eventual marriage. I don't feel a whole lot wiser, but I do feel as though I've grown up some. I've grown up enough to be "mom" to a 17 year old and to sometimes "mother" her 19 year old boyfriend. Our time with her has not been enough, though, and that's where the letting go is difficult and painful. It doesn't matter, though, that it's painful. It is necessary and healthy, for her empowerment, for her happiness and health, for her ability to live and love and be free.
And I suppose that's what raising children is all about.