Over the weekend was a pivotal parental let-go.
I guided eight and a half-year old Jeb through a solo sojourn. His first real walk alone. A milestone, not unlike that pinnacle moment years ago, when he released my finger and began a precarious and tubby toddle away from me.
“Yeah, just walk with me to that mango tree and then you can turn around,” he suggests.
He’s got his back pack on and our rubber slippers are flip-flopping, ankle-deep in grass, along our country road. Jeb’s going to his dad’s house which is about a third of a mile away from where we live. It’s his first unaccompanied trek.
“Ok, this is good,” he says as we approach the big tree. It’s a hug and a kiss and a modern, motherly reminder from me to “text me when you get there, ok?”
As the words come from my mouth, I recognize that parental predecessors have never had this technological assurance. But this back up doesn’t make the space between farewell and my cell phone display screen any less tenuous.
“Ok, love you…” he says as he waves and walks on, beaming in this moment of flight and freedom.
We move in opposite directions, then catch each other both looking back over our shoulders at one another. More waves are exchanged, then we move further on. Another backward glance and we’re both smiling to see each other peeking back again.
This goes on, repeatedly, as we make our way in opposite directions.
A few steps further away, look back, smile, wave. A few more steps away.
Finally, there is a curve in the road that we both know will permanently put us out of sight of one another. He is distant but I can hear him.
“Ok, mom, bye!”
And just like that, a shared, final gesture of parting and he rounds out and away from my view.
I know Jeb’s Dad is waiting to receive him on the other side. He, too, has been given the request to text me as soon as Jeb makes it there (no cell reception at his house, only text messages can come through). It’s not that I’m worried, just wanting confirmation.
So two hours later and three of my sent messages (something along the lines of “please help a mother rest assured that our boy made it alright”) I’ve settled into the deepest let go. The one countless mothers have done long before cell phones. Trusting that no news is good news. Rationalizing that if Jeb wouldn’t have made it, his father would have contacted me by now, wondering where he was. That they must be having so much fun, they just forgot.
Not extremely anxious, just not completely settled, I get to sit in the company of the Mothers of the World. Surrender to the space of no guarantees. Dwell within the uncertainty that links us across the ages.
No matter how many technological tools offer instant answers, there will never be a definitive promise. A mother will always be required to release her child back into the world.
And in the case of this mother (as in, me), she didn’t get that little reassurance until sunset, when her cell phone sounded and the words, “I’m ok” came across her screen.
Mother’s intuition knew this all along. She just got to let go and rely on it.