My first reaction was to stop him.
I mean, what mother wouldn’t? What mom wants to watch her soon-to-be-20-year-old son stand on the edge of the Grand Canyon?
“I’m going down there,” he said, motioning toward the towering rock formation that juts out of the canyon’s edge. I hear the reactionary yelp come out of my mouth. “Oh my god,” I exclaim, knowing he can feel my disapproval.
What goes through my mind next is pretty dark. I see him falling. I see my life without him. Would I want to die too? Probably.
I see the tears that would never stop. I see my daughter and I crying as they gather his mangled body, and the two of us driving out of this national park with our dog in the car, but without him. His short life never fully lived.
Would I go on living because I have a daughter, a mother, a life? Who would I call first? His dad? My partner? Or would I text my girlfriends?
I think about all the mothers who have endured the loss of a child and I’m certain I don’t want to experience that.
Yep, I am going to tell him no way José is he going near that ledge.
And then I remember that I taught my kids, through my own example, to take risks, be present, follow desire. Who’s to say which risks are worth it and which are too risky? Does standing on the ledge, even with brush beneath, fall into the too risky category?
How does a mother distinguish?
Is that even my job anymore?
My mind swirls and what comes to me at 7,400 feet is that he’s going away to college soon and we live on different coasts. He is at a point in his life where he’s making his own decisions, working, and driving around in the Mustang he bought for himself.
I have no control. Believe me, I have tried to have control. Any attempt to control him at this national park today is feeble. Because tomorrow, I will have no say. He is going to live his life and take chances as he feels called to.
And, thank God.
I pray that I’ve done a decent job teaching him to be smart—like before he jumps off a cliff, make sure the water below is deep enough for his six-foot body.
This is a tricky spot for most parents. It’s socially unacceptable to let our kids take life-threatening risks, and obviously, I want him to be safe. Letting him stand at the edge of the Grand Canyon, no matter how old he is, feels like borderline bad parenting.
There’s conditioning inside me that says if I was a good mother I would never let him stand on that ledge. But what makes a good mother? Is it keeping him safe? Or encouraging him to take risks? Can I ever be sure he will be safe anyway? As a parent, I can do everything right and my kids can still fall off a ledge.
I breathe deeply, look at him, and say, “I love you.”
“I know,” he says.
I release the next layer of control and watch him walk the canyon’s edge, weighing the risks, carefully choosing where to step next, and I see him smile. This is living to him. He has always loved to push boundaries and use his body to jump, move, and crash. I can only hope he won’t burn up doing it.
I’ve kept him safe since he was a little boy, but it’s not up to me anymore. So I take his picture.
I accept that he may fall today. Or maybe tomorrow. As a conscious mother encouraging my kids to live out loud, I have stopped protecting them. It may sound crazy, but I think the other way is actually the crazy way—the world where moms handle all the challenging spots, stay up late, fretting, deciphering the labyrinths, and then wonder why their kids struggle with adulting. That method is counterproductive to raising conscious adults who understand the true meaning of their choices and the natural consequences to life.
The key is to let go.
Letting go—it starts the minute they are born and it never ends. My children aren’t mine. They came through me, as a gift. The minute I forget that, and impart my personal will onto them, is the moment I stunt their emotional growth. Why would I want to do that?
It’s said that after having a child, a mother’s heart now lives outside her body. Yep, that’s true. The potential for heartbreak is tremendous, and from the depths of my soul, I pray for his well-being. But I will continue to encourage him to live, to take risks, and to do what brings him joy, every day. Lest he does not live or learn.
Yep, even on the ledge at the Grand Canyon, dammit.
Author: Brenda Fredericks
Image: Author’s own
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Emily Bartran