My son made a confession this week. My daughter squirmed in her seat, trying to squelch it, knowing how it might end. Cars are magic talking devices. They are.
We were returning from a hike and swim. It was an especially wonderful day. We had hiked, just a little, in and of itself, amazing. I have been working on this quest to become a 46er. Hiking is suddenly serious to me, and my son. A 46er is one of the esteemed few that reaches all 46 High Peaks in the Adirondack Mountains. A high peak is distinguished by it’s altitude of 4000 ft or higher. So the fact that we went hiking without a serious plan or commitment to reaching the top is a small miracle- I am learning how to relax.
Of course change is difficult. My son might have been a little uncomfortable by this new, relaxed approach. “What do you mean we aren’t going to the top? He implored. “We’re just going to hike a little, I only have one bottle of water, the rest of the water and food was left in the car.” I answered. “What?” He demanded, “No, we have to go. Why are we here?” Actually we were here because I wanted to find a special swimming hole, except I didn’t exactly know where it was. It could have actually been closer to the top for all I knew, but I was relaxed. We were also there because it had been a family tradition since we came to the Hudson Valley almost 13 years ago. We hiked on the 4th of July getting to know the area and exploring the beautiful surroundings. I wanted to keep some of our family traditions intact even though our family was abruptly altered this year.
We frolicked more than hiked. We have not frolicked in some time. It was so nice to be out in nature with my son and daughter. We have not been together without a “purpose” for some time. We had been too long in sadness, anger and grief. We needed this and it came without force or prodding. After frolicking uphill for a brief amount of time, maybe 30 minutes, we meandered downhill. When we approached the car, I asked a few hikers if they knew where Blue Hole was. They hadn’t heard of it but offered to look on their maps. I asked if it was a "topo map"-serious hiker, I. It would not be visible on a driving map. They said “yes”, but they would need a few moments to locate it. As they scrambled for keys, I smiled and said, “No worries, we are going to head to the creek and follow it for a bit and see what happens, thanks anyway.” My children were already sitting near the edge of the creek waiting-for lunch and water, but cheerily. The creek would be cool and refreshing even if we didn’t find Blue Hole.
Not too much further, it appeared to us. There it was, an incredible swimming hole. A rope hanging from a tree over a ledge approximately 20-30 feet above the “pool” was inviting. Stone gorges and green forest below one of Catskills higher peaks, it was enchanting. I was determined to “do it”. Grab the rope, swing and drop. I watched others without creating undue fear and apprehension, and then, I did it! Hitting the ice cold water, my chest seemed to implode, gasping for air, through asthmatic breaths-I couldn’t help smiling-widely, proudly. I made my way to land and laughed as I finally pulled enough air in. I did it! I will do it again, soon. It was just the bit of risk and adventure I needed. I believe it was the relaxing and supportive time we shared that gave me permission, freedom.
So, back to the car, following the relaxation, the confession. With my smile and pride we headed home. Talking and sharing. Maybe the idea that I wasn’t quite the same was too much. I was different, relaxed, caused my son, angst. He needed to set the equilibrium back on course. Somehow the conversation turned to parenting and children and responsibilities. We started talking about parents that drive their babies around at night to get them to sleep. I shared my opinion. They weren’t surprised. They added their own snickery renditions. Walking to school uphill both ways in a snowstorm-war story type of thing. Yawn, groan, Oh Momma! I can be a bit ornery and a tad righteous from time to time when I’m not relaxed and jumping off cliffs into freezing water. So to create a sense of homeostasis, my son started making a confession.
Aside from the not driving my children around to get them to sleep because children need to learn how to calm themselves philosophy, I have thoughts about lunch making. You may have already come across my philosophy: if you are old enough to clap, you are almost old enough to slap 2 pieces of bread together and march uphill to school in a blizzard with something to eat. Somehow, my son was either so relaxed, or he had a great need to bring his real mother back from this relaxed and unrecognizable space. He started sharing tales of Milk Mothers. He was surely provoking my being relaxed, my daughter not so much, she was imagining her exit strategy. Milk Mothers, or a distinct few, have been the bane of my existence, at times. Or unrelaxed me, allowed them to become larger than life, demonized creatures that should have to go through finger-printing, back ground check, security procedures like the rest of us that have contact with children in public schools. Why on earth do schools need them? These demonic beings that control the social scenes of 5-12 year olds based upon random, not controlled, bogus research methods-such as: reporting confidential observations that seem to go like this: "Tsk-tsk, that little boy never brings a lunch to school, he must be, poor, neglected, uncared for. He must have a “bad” mother. He is probably from a broken home, with lice, bed-bugs, and maybe store-brand bread, and surely no brie or avocado or aged-formaggio artisan cheeses." “His mother “has” to work, but can’t she think of him and make sure he gets fed?” They spread these tales around the social scene. Sometimes the sad, forlorn children get to be invited to homes or birthday parties occasionally as a bit of a service project to help their own children understand how good they have it. Mostly not.
Ah yes, relaxed me. All he had to say was, “The Milk Moms always felt so sad for me. It was weird.” As I started to attempt to get more information, how did they “know” he had to make his own lunch? He said “I didn’t always bring it, I just wanted an ice cream sometimes, and they would feel sorry for me.” My adherence to a healthy lunch, and my desire to boycott the price gauging was a bit shall we say, unrelaxed? As my daughter squirmed and tried to get him to stop talking. I remained, mostly relaxed. I am finished with the Milk Mom scene. I myself, enjoy an artisan cheese from time to time. I now keep pesto in the cupboard when I don’t have time to make it fresh. For some unexplained reason I keep a very well stocked bread selection around lately. He gets his favorite wheatberry and nut bread or a peasant Ciabatta to choose from. My daughter is no longer squirming but she can't believe she didn't get to benefit from any of this. I tried to explain that middle children simply have this lot in life- I am also a middle child. We stopped for ice cream on our way home. None of the Milk Mom’s were present to help my son or witness my loving act.
Soon my children will all know how to drive and I will relax enough to doze off-well, maybe. They might just want to throw me in a car to get me to fall asleep. Life goes quickly, all of these worries, are so meaningless in the scheme of things. I wish I had learned to relax a little sooner. I recently made and packed a few edible lunches for my son as he went off to his summer job. I confess, I felt a little uncomfortable. I worry that he may just expect it, and not understand the importance of being self-reliant, or remember to be appreciative and thankful. I’ll try to recall the jump into the cold water. The lung implosion, my wide smile. Making lunch probably won’t kill me or him.
But to all the milk moms out there: He was fed and provided for. I continue to think it important for children to learn responsibilities, developmentally. He was clapping at 2 and thought himself the “best clapper ever”. He didn’t make his lunch until he was 5 or 6, with direction and support. He makes the best lunches that I have ever had, sometimes he makes them for me. He still “forgets” to make or bring lunch to school from time to time and he knows how to get a pesto and mozzarella sandwich from the most beautiful girl in town. Apparently the Milk Moms were simply training camp. He is quite self-reliant after all and charming.
My daughter had her own confession. She thought she might take up watching the Food Network. She feels somewhat ill equipped about her artisan cheese knowledge and her cooking vocabulary. She has avoided cooking up until recently. She doesn’t much care for my "if you can clap you can eat" concept, wait til she comes across “if you can read, you can cook”. She went off to her new apartment with an impressive set of cookware. I better hook her up with a cookbook! When I get done with my cliff jumping- I am going to have a pretty big appetite and I will know where to get a couple of people to feed me.