It's a hot summer day and I'm resting my carcass on a lopsided boulder partway up a mountain at a small ski resort. I'm not an Alpine skier, so I'm not privy to the glorious white panoramas my husband and son tell me about all winter long. And as a non-skier, terms like green circle, blue square, and black diamond don't mean much to me. Supposedly, green is easy, blue is intermediate, and black is hard to scary-hard. Perhaps blue is intermediate going down, but as I catch my breath on this boulder, I can tell you that hiking up a blue trail is no joke.
The boy discovered photography a few years ago, and I'm waiting here in my less-than-comfortable spot while he snaps pictures of a decommissioned ski lift. He is a truly creative spirit, finding beauty where I can only see a dilapidated lean-to surrounded by weeds. My heart is a bit in my throat as I watch from a distance his climb up the side of the structure for a better vantage point. He calls, "Hey D!", his name for me, and waves, and I know he's fine.
I'm learning, slowly, to give him his space, let him explore his independence. He'll be 14 in September, and his childhood is coming to a close. Only a few years left to teach him what I want him to know before he's making his own way in the world. These 13 years together have been a blessing to me, and I hope I'm having as positive an impact on his life as he's having on mine.
Wisdom isn't a river, rushing in one direction from a large source to a smaller pond. For me, wisdom is that uncomfortable fizzle of water in your sinuses when someone shoves you in the deep end before you can grab a breath. I've been treading water, grasping the life preserver ring, unsure which way to go, learning to swim out of necessity. And the boy is shouting to me from the side of the pool, telling me I can do it.
Fourteen years ago in the childbirth class I took at the local hospital, a labor and delivery nurse told a room of anxious, soon-to-be moms to relax. She said that we wouldn't be alone in our labor. We thought she meant we'd have a team of healthcare professionals by our sides, but no, she said. She meant that our babies would be right there with us, working as hard as we were to bring themselves into the world. That message has resonated within me from that day to this.
These past 13 years have not been easy. We've had good times and bad, individual struggles and family struggles, but all along the way, the boy has been right there, working as hard as I've been to be a part of the world. And he has passed on so much wisdom to his old mom, as the young are wont to do to their elders, if we only listen to them.
Wisdom is nothing if it is not shared, so I share with you three of my boy's top lessons:
1) Open your eyes and see the beauty around you. You'll find it in the least likely places--like an old ski lift, a wet rock, or a deer antler.
2) Be always unapologetically yourself and your people will find you. He's been teaching me this one for a while, and I love his confidence in expressing his essence in his clothing, his music, his photography. Simply put, he's an interesting and authentic individual who I'd want to be near, even if he weren't (blessedly) my son.
3) Don't be afraid to take risks. I've watched him throw himself into new situations, embrace new people, and share himself fearlessly with others. His mother is more cautious, some have said socially anxious, and I watch him in disbelief. How did he become so confident? Not my gene pool, that's for sure.
I watch him inch down slowly from the roof of the ski lift and he yells that he's climbing up higher. Wisdom of the young to their elders. Persevere. I pack up my writing pad, dust an ant off my shin, strap on my backpack, and follow.