Last week I heard Riley, two-year old explorer and budding princess, say quite clearly over the phone, “I did it! All by myself!”
A lot of the good things in life are built through cooperation. Working together, sharing, joining hands and hearts to create something big, something meaningful, is a joyful experience. It is good to be part of a team, and a team effort.
But if there is strength in numbers, there is also satisfaction in self-reliance. And though, as was famously noted in our national political discussion recently, no one succeeds without help, still, a lot of success can be ascribed to individual effort.
Even two-year old princesses understand that, and celebrate it, with their cry of recognition: “I did it, all by myself!”
Our son is learning this in a new way. He is establishing himself, all by himself, without ready-made structure in place around him. He’s moved back to Colorado, to the home of his heart, and he’s creating a home that will nurture his heart.
We watch from afar. We talk, but he’s doing the work. We mentor and advise, but he’s doing the heavy lifting.
When he left home, it was to join the army, and surely, there is no more structured environment for a 19-year-old to land in. Now he’s out of the army and navigating without a team around him. He’s job hunting, apartment hunting, life hunting. He has some big decisions to make. Will he, or won’t he, after resisting for six years since high school, choose college and more education? Will he find himself working in whatever job he can land with his skills and experience and be content, or will he choose something that is out of reach at the moment, that he will have to work to attain?
I don’t know, and I’m not sure he does either, at this very moment. He thinks he’s been independent since he joined the army, right out of high school, and to some degree, that’s true. But I see him gaining a whole new footing in the world of adult responsibility. I see him learning, doing, saying, “I did it, all by myself!”
It is good to be 25, and independent! I’m proud of him for doing something I never did…for jumping out there and going for it. He’s not always successful, and we don’t always agree with his decisions. But he owns them, and he stands by them.
My husband says “He’s becoming a man.” It’s an anxious time for me. For all my sunny nature and positive outlook, when it comes to my kids, I’m a first-class worrier. I try to see ahead and around corners and think with them, sometimes for them. But I know, in my heart of hearts, that’s not the right approach. I squelch my anxiety and wait for news of this interview, or that application. No 25-year-old needs a nervous mom hovering in the background. I am not picking him up from kindergarten. This is not his first date.
I thought I already did this. I thought I let go years ago. Funny how you find pockets of emotion as you watch your kids move through different phases of life, through experience. This new bid for independence is exciting for Alex. It makes me nervous. He’s pumped, I’m scared.
But like the earlier moments of letting go, I’ll manage this too. First, because I am physically removed, literally many states and two time zones away, and I don’t have a lot of option. Second, because it is the right thing to do. Though I wish I could provide a safety net for him, the truth is, beyond a certain point, no parent can really protect. The next generation has to find their own way, make their own decisions and mistakes, and celebrate their triumphs.
I’m just waiting to hear, on the other end of the line, “I did it, all by myself!”