A Grizzly Task
I dropped him off again. This time at a boarding school, in the beautiful landscape of Northern Montana. It was a lovely place and everyone seemed very nice. He was nervous but showed how much he had changed in his demeanor and willingness to go.
No matter how many times I do it, it is hard to let go and leave. I pulled out of the drive way and cried. Not because I was so upset or it was as gut wrenching as I anticipated it would be or has been in the recent past. Just because he is my child and I love him and leaving him is always hard. I have cried at every major life event for him. Not out of sadness always, more out of obligation. I do not mean that it is perfunctory…just that motherhood seems to require of me a leaking at the eyes when words just fail me. So much emotional charge to the events that are hallmarks of motherhood and child rearing. So much love and loss happening all at the same time. The inner emotional landscape of a mother setting boundaries, letting go, leaving…a grizzly task.
Life gives us a lot of hard things. Motherhood thus far the hardest. Full of hard lessons and requirements. So much emotionality packed into the mundane tasks of every day life. You are required to take him to daycare for the first time and it feels like you just placed him on a bus to bootcamp…the incongruity between the task and the emotional cost severe and drastic.
It has always felt this way to me. Hard and emotional. Scary and tear ridden. Letting go one finger at a time, always a precarious balancing of loving, holding on, letting go and grieving that which your child has now outgrown. Praying always that in their new form, their new selves that they never completely outgrow you…
After I pulled myself together, I began the drive home to my hotel. The drive was spectacular which I really appreciated, the beauty to distract me from the pain. Being able to take in the turning leaves and meandering Yaak River. 30 miles of nothing but water, trees, winding roads and my son’s newest country playlist playing on my car stereo. I opened the sunroof, rolled the windows down and just allowed the outside world in invade me. It was cold so I turned up the heat, needing the cold blasts of air to be met with equal resistance from the car’s heater. That is how I felt, incongruent, happy and sad, despondent and joyful, hopeful and defeated. Lost and found.
I was in this state when I rounded a bend on a deserted road, and came across a dark figure in my path. It was too dense for a deer, elk or moose. It was what it could only be, a young Grizzly bear. I stopped in the highway, which would normally be a dangerous thing to do, but here in Northern Montana, there is no one on the roads, well except for Grizzly bears. We stared at each other. Me in my car, him standing in the road. Blocking my forward progress…it was only a moment, but it stretches out in front of me still. A bear in my path…a young bear on his own in the wild…
I moved to grab my phone to capture the moment. And the movement caused him to begin to run. I capture the young guy mid stride as he made his way onto whatever Grizzly bears do next when confronted with a grieving mother in a rental car on a deserted Montana highway.
The meaning is not lost on me…
Me, a mother bear, fierce in my love for my son, having to do the hard thing and leave him yet again. My son, the young bear, ambling through the wilderness finding himself and his path and life. Me, ferocious in my love for him while also having to do the hard mother bear tasks of setting hard boundaries, him having to do similar hard tasks of having courage to foray on his own in a land unfamiliar, full of peril and alone.
Mother bear, cub son. My encounter yesterday showed me that what my son and I are doing is all just part of the Divine progress and process of nature. It is my job to let him go to find his own way in this world. Even though he may stand in the middle of a highway which could bring about his own demise. It is his job to have the courage to leave me and find the strength to venture on his own. And like the bear yesterday, I have to trust that when the danger becomes more pervasive, my son too will run to the safety of the roadside and move forward on whatever comes next for him.
For me, I will always remember that my son is not mine no more than I owned the bear yesterday. I am a witness to the amazing journey of a boy to a man. Content now to stand back and marvel at the process and my ringside seat to his evolution and growth. My love for him will always be mother bear savage, but just like with the Grizzly yesterday, I must always respect the dangerousness of loving too much, too closely. It is a grizzly task to mother your kids. It is hard to love them and let them go at the same time. It is terrible to have your heart soar and break at the same time. But, as I learned yesterday, Grizzly tasks are also a gift. Terrifying beautiful and poignantly fear evoking…which is what I think mother bear love is all about.