Well here I am again. On a ferry, in Alaska, leaving my son behind...again. It feels like too much to ask of me, his mother. I have done so much of this over the last year, all in an effort to save him, from himself. I am not sure this time will be different. I am not sure he is reachable. It is so intermittent, at least that is how it seems. He just wants to talk, most of it bullshit, crap that he thinks will sound good, look good but in the end is just more crap in what is appearing to be a steady diet for him.
I have done my best to mother him. To be both parents to him on the daily. I have failed on both fronts, repeatedly. I know little to nothing about being a dad. And I am not sure that I am really better suited for the mothering either. I am just over here doing my best with these kids that I have been entrusted to rear. And failing, there has been a lot of failing. Theirs, mine, professionals, the schools, the people who were supposed to help but didn’t. A lot of fucking failure.
I guess what I am saying now, God, is that he is yours. I know you have known this all along, but I didn’t. I thought he was mine. I thought he was my child, but I can see now that perhaps that has always been our battle, me thinking that I had any real agency over him at all. I did not. Not ever. He just in my care, I wish I could have realized this sooner. He has always been this brilliant light of you, one beam out of billions who happened to be born to me and somehow I got that confused in that I was responsible for him. I have tried to be, God you know I have. I have taught him right from wrong. I have taught him manners, politeness, kindness, to care for others. To be of service. And from where I sit right now, I have really failed on the whole service front. He serves himself, even when he serves others, he serves him first, best and last, and in so doing screws himself and the rest of us every single time.
How do you teach someone not to be selfish? How do you teach others to care about the wellbeing of others? I have tried in my words, but they ring hollow in his ears. I have tried in my actions but he appears unable to see anything I do, except the shortfalls or failures. Those he sees and is quick to point out. Yesterday he spent the entire day defending his dad’s decisions to not be present in his daily life. Hero worshiping him. Lifting him up while I walked the walk with him daily and he appears not to notice my efforts at all. It hurts to see and feel that all I have done, all I continue to do, appears to go completely unnoticed by him. And he only sees the places I have failed. It hurts me so very much when he does this.
I do not want him not to love or even worship his dad. I want both my kids to have loving, close relationships with both of us. His dad is not a bad person. But he is an absent father. He is far away and uninvolved in the demands and heartbreaks of daily parenting. He able to be above the fray. Blessedly way above it all, while I remain in the trenches, alone. I do not wish to take anything from his dad, I just would like it if there was a little acknowledgment about how hard my road has been and continues to be. I guess I have to be the one to acknowledge it...
I left him again, one more time removing myself from his path so that he will stop trying perhaps to go around me. Stop trying to outsmart me, out will me, out do me. I am not sure why I can’t be the one to raise him but when I am present all he does is rebel against me. And we argue, and fight and our home becomes a battleground where no one ever wins, and everybody loses...repeatedly.
So I guess I am turning him over to you now. He has always been yours, so really I am just getting out of the way. Allowing him to find his own way with guidance from a man that he seems to respect, honor, obey and look to for guidance and opportunity. He is here, I am going home. I pray that you can reach him here in Alaska, removed from all the things that he doesn’t seem capable of managing: friends, social media, peer pressure, drugs, alcohol, school, work, family life, following rules, respecting his mom and grandparents.
He is only 16, soon to be 17. He has a year of childhood left, and it is my opinion that he has a lot of growing up to do in this next year, but again, I will leave that up to you. Perhaps what my son lacks isn’t a mother or a dad, but a reason to find himself in the center of his own life. To choose to live instead of numb out and destroy all the goodness that surrounds him...one angry, hateful word at a time.
I hope and pray that he finds that reason here with you, in the coastal waters, in the green that is literally everywhere, the air that is the purest I have ever known, in the sea life that beckons all humans to the shoreline to watch them at the center of their own lives, the other humans who have retreated to Alaska’s faraway places, to live more simply, without all the modern life stuff to get in the way. I know it still finds them even in all this remoteness. But I pray that he is still enough, alone enough, desperate enough to seek to find you within him. I know you are there, it is the great irony in this life, that we all go seeking God everywhere but in the center of our own chests. That is where I found you and continue to find you when I remember to seek. Always. Every single time. It took me a long time to learn that it is never spirit that moves, it is me, always. Your presence always there for me, always me that is too busy, distracted, afraid, angry, hurt, or stupid to remember that the answers are always found within the stillness and quiet of my own soul.
So it is with him as well.
So I give you my first born. Dear God, please don’t take him out, please help him find a true and good reason to live. Let him enjoy the life he has been given and somehow penetrate that teenage mind that is so inept right now at thinking beyond what is right in front of him. Help him see that his life is just beginning and it really is his life now. His father and I have stepped back, realizing that we not capable of raising this child, perhaps ever, but certainly now.
May my son know that walking away from your child, admitting that you don’t know anything about how to parent him, love him, raise him, care for him, is the hardest ask of any parent ever. We are supposed to know, except we don’t. We are supposed to raise them up and then take them to college and release the parental controls slowly, over years. Not just all at once, hugging him goodbye in a gravelly parking lot, with choking sobs and shaking shoulders. Not again.
But this was our goodbye this morning. This was our leaving. Our parting. Too long and too brief at the same time. Farewell too soon and way overdue. Incongruent and sad, heartbreaking and still with a tiny residual spark of hope that never quite dies out. This tiny ember of prayer that rekindles itself, phoenix like in its ability to recreate itself from its own ashes. And plants itself within my chest, because it can be cared for there. Seeming to realize that my head is not a safe place to be, too many thoughts whirling about that would bring its doom quickly. Not my gut either. Too sloshy and acidic to have much of anything survive. No the ember has to be carried in the fiery heart of a mother’s love for her child, a heart the only place for such an ember to survive. Hearts afire with hope, while back turned, walking away while the tears fall silently to the ground. Ground that is not common to us, but holds the foundation for this ember to enflame and catch fire hopefully within my son’s own heart and he can love the life he has, and begin to move forward self possessed, but guided, always divinely guided by your grace.
I love him. But I cannot raise him. So I leave that to you, and Sean. And pray that you can do what I could not...reach a boy who always places himself just outside human aide.
The sun was up this morning, about 4 am, so there was time for one more hike, one more walk together before my departure. As we walked the bay, I spotted a mother deer and her two fawns. They walked the water's edge...mother, children. And I was reminded of my own mothering journey with the two not so tiny fawns of my own. One back in California struggling, and the one that was right next to me but felt a million miles away. I wanted to trade places with that deer, to just frolic at the water's edge with my kids again. For them to be little and happy, content to learn things from me and me from them, to be present with me, for the love to be the thing we shared instead of hurtful words and broken hearts. But alas, my fate human and no changing places. I know it isn't better as a mother deer. There are hunters and trappers and many other perils of a wild life. Deer life and deer parenting not better, it only appeared so this morning while they walked a distant shore. But in this moment, I saw that I walked the shore just as the doe did, one of my fawns trailing behind me. And I knew that a mother's love remains the same, whether doe or woman. And I knew that mothering is hard, always.