The boys are headed to summer camp today. It’s an hour and a half away, sleepover for three nights, mosquitos, s’mores, mud, poison ivy- everything a boy could want. If you’ve never packed for three boys under 12 in anticipation for overnight stays somewhere outside the reach of one parent or the other, let me just assure you it’s daunting. Considering that I’m not the super organized mother to begin with, it’s been one of the more stressful preparations I’ve made this month, which might explain why I procrastinated as long as I have. At this point I’m just throwing things into the huge duffle bags I purchased and hoping for the best. A series of questions ran through my poor overwhelmed brain:
“How will they know when to change their underwear?” “How will they remember to brush their teeth?” “How will they find anything in this pile of stuff?” “Does it matter?”
It doesn’t matter really. Three days without tooth brushing or clean clothes or remembering their bug spray isn’t going to make a bit of difference to my boys. If it mattered I’m confident they’d find a way to make those things happen. It’s not really about them feeling prepared. It’s about me, letting go.
The longer I live the more I understand that life is all about letting go.Whether it’s parenting or career or relationships we are always in this state of connecting and letting go. Letting go is that pang I feel hearing from a friend back in Nashville, hearing about the way life continues down there long after I’ve moved. Letting go is the post on Facebook from an old college friend, the reminder that I’m not 20 anymore. Letting go is watching my teenage daughter interact with her friends, seeing how her little girl face has shifted into that of a young woman. It’s all letting go and it’s all painful.
I wish I could say it feels like a “good kind of pain” like the aching that comes the day after good workout. I wish I could say that I expect the pain goes away the more we let go but I cannot make that promise with any authority. My experience so far tells me that the older I get, the longer I live, the harder it is to let go because the road behind me is longer and the road ahead, while uncertain for all of us, marches toward the time when we do finally let go of this life altogether. No matter how we try to superglue ourselves to another person or place or event or career we will always be letting go or pried apart.
Or maybe it’s not about superglue at all. Maybe life really is more like water, running through our fingers and our hair, in constant motion, we have to let it go, there never was a choice there. It would be foolish to try to contain the ocean, we can only move along with it; tides in, tides out, feeling the salt on our skin as the water dries, feeling the warm blush of the sun, feeling the loss each time the water recedes, feeling the trust that the tide always returns. I cannot contain the ocean, though there are times I would like to try. For today I’m wrapping my arms around these little boys, this temporary embrace before they run toward the great unknown, the future they too will have to let go one day, the ocean they will let wash over them. I only hope they remember the sunscreen I packed in the bottom of the duffle bag.