When my son was 14, he constructed a boat from a cardboard box. He duct-taped sheets of styrofoam insulation to the bottom. He covered the entire structure with MORE duct tape, then called his friend Chad to help him launch the thing.
The boys were extremely enthusiastic, but I stood by fretting and nay-saying: "You are going to sink!"
They took off to the creek anyway, so I grabbed my camera and ran after them, in the guise of playing photographer. My real intention was to be available to save my kid's life when the boat flipped over. I imagined him trapped upside down with his legs caught in that stupid cardboard kayak, and I was having NOTHING to do with that idea!
So, while I tsk-tsk'd, Brian crawled into his boxboat...
Chad gave him a shove...
And LO, that boat with my kid in it took off like a bat out of hell! It worked!
Off he went down the creek while Chad grabbed his bicycle and I ran ahead trying to get pictures around the bend.
As a mother, it is sometimes difficult to know when to let your kids set sail. Sometimes they actually do know more than you do. It is hard to know when to loosen the reigns on this fierce protective instinct, and to realize that your vigilant guarding might be no longer necessary. Your children can right their own tumbling boats.
As I write this, my son is in St. Louis, taking a government physical and enlisting in the U.S. Army. I ache. I try not to weep. I try not to worry.
I try to remember that he's a smart and strong guy, and this is HIS answer. This is not an idiotic decision made out of desperation; he has dreams and goals that will be more readily attained if he has military service under his belt.
I try to remember that
despite the instinct
of chasing after him
to protect him