The first time you hear the word “Mommy” you have no idea what that will truly entail. I had the privilege of mothering my son, Jonathan Maclain Stamper, for twenty years, three months, two weeks and five days, before he left home for basic training in the Coast Guard. When your children leave home, there is not a word to describe it, as much as a sound that happens deep within. It is a tearing sound, the last of the connective thread that has had kept them safely by your side.
In the thirteen months that led up to my son’s departure, I went to the bottom and back many times. The day I saw him drive down the street to go to MEPS to sign up for the Navy, I could barely make my legs work to go back inside. It was as though if I looked long and hard enough, that suddenly he would reappear, and be my little boy again at my side, saying, “watch this Mommy.” Little boys always want you to watch their accomplishments, right up until they drive away. Jon came back with a contract to leave for the Navy on September 23, 2014. I stayed supportive of his decision, but often wept. As his date of departure got closer he began to live his life to the fullest, like he had a terminal disease. He had one of his best friends, Logan, decided to go skydiving. I felt like a pin cushion by now, and here was one more pin going in. It was during that day that he was jumping out of a plane with some discount skydiving outfit, that IT happened. I remember the moment well, something changed in me. I realized that no amount of obsessive worrying would ever keep my son safe, nor change his mind about things. I saw my negative thoughts being sent out like dark ripples, serving absolutely no purpose for him nor myself. Then there was a visceral feeling inside that I will never forget. Like a heavy, ripe apple falling from the tree, I let go absolutely. In an instant, I went from clinging to releasing that which was not mine to hold any longer. I would still always stand tall and strong as his mother, but he was not dependent on me anymore.
As soon as I let go and no longer was doing all the emotional processing for he and his father, they picked up where I left off. It was classic, I was now in full acceptance, and now it was their turn to FEEL. I watched this process in awe, and knew more now more than ever how projection of emotions works. Two days after I released my attachment, Jon got in touch with the fact that he really wanted to be in the Coast Guard, not the Navy. This was a huge revelation and not an easy process, but my son handled it with respect and grace. I watched him stand firm in his convictions and I knew he had become rare man who was in touch with his intuition and brave enough to act on it. Now the waiting game began again, as he would not leave for another three and a half months.
I cherished everyday, knowing soon my son would not come rushing in starving, asking for “treats” or “cowboy breakfasts” so I made it a point to indulge him as often as I could. I played tricks on myself preparing for his absence. I would call out his name when he was not here to see what it would feel like when he would really not be here to answer me. Sometimes I would just go sit beside him, or give him a really long hug. He would prep me for his departure, and say, “you better not cry Mom." I wondered how I would pull that off?
Then I remembered a gift my son gave me when I was teaching him to drive. We got caught in a spring snow storm one day, and it was a near white out. I kept shifting in my seat and sighing. Jon was getting annoyed with my anxiousness and asked if I wanted to drive? I told him no, he was doing fine,I was just nervous. He then looked at me with absolute certainty and said, “Mom, if you are okay, I will be okay.” I thought about that over and over again. I had to be okay when I said good bye to him. I owed it to him, and to his sister. As I gave him a final hug, I remembered the look in his face when he said those words to me on that snowy day on a county road in an unexpected blizzard, and it gave me strength. I watched him walk away and turn the corner and I stood unwavering, legs firmly planted, unlike when he he drove away the first time, strong in my love and belief in my now adult son. Something changed in me, I had ripened, fully aware of how nothing ever stays the same, and how no matter how much you love them, you always have to let them go.