“Don’t look back,” he said as we parted.
For a decade after a divorce I’d been goodbye-ing my children. But this time, instead a farewell at his father’s front door, I left my youngest on a lawn thousand miles away from home.
He was 15.
Introverted and incredibly intelligent, he was too smart for high schools and I wasn’t smart enough for home school. Instead of starting his sophomore year with his classmates, he entered his freshman year at college. He stood alone under a sunny sky amidst a campus of strangers as I walked to my rental car weeping without shame.
It wasn’t a pandemic, but it wasn’t the back to school we planned. There would be no parent teacher conference to meet his teachers. No open house to see his classrooms. And, there would be no cell phones.
Will he be safe? Will he be understandably homesick or get seriously depressed? Had I made my biggest motherly mistake so far?
Despite the fear-filled start to this unanticipated path, Jack did well. Still, there was no graduation from that college. Instead, he transferred schools. A year later he enrolled in community college to become a mechanic. Thereafter an enlistment in the Army–boot camp followed by training as an airborne medic during wartime. Ultimately? A degree in economics followed by a graduation with honors from Harvard Law School.
Twenty years ago my child was my teacher for changed plans, uncertainty, and risk. Ever courageous, Jack kept saying yes, trusting that each choice was the best he could make. He’s lived that wisdom ever since.
He did it again this year. He stepped away from a prestigious job in the legal world into something that could make any mother afraid anew. Jack’s spending this season fighting wildfires in remote areas of the western United States.
It’s back to school for me, retaking the class on trusting my child and having faith in the future.
What fears do you have about your uncertain path?
What have you learned about worrying in the face of unanticipated changes?
What can you trust about yourself when the future is unsure?