This is Arayla’s first experience attending overnight camp, and the longest she and I will have ever been apart! In these two weeks she'll be nurturing her passionate love for horses and riding while also being given the chance to learn more about horse therapy, which is an aspect of the center that runs parallel alongside the camp, providing campers with opportunities to extend compassionate support towards people with special needs.
After we arrived at camp, I devotedly made Arayla’s lower bunk cozy and beautiful, helping her to unpack all her clothes and toiletries into the containers they provided. I could feel inside my tender Mama heart, stretching to let her individuate like this, how this gesture of helping her settle into her space was clearly more for me, than for her! Similar to nesting before she was born, when my belly was as big as the moon, folding and re-folding her little infant clothes, imagining the tiny body that would soon be squirming outside of me~ this physical gesture of settling her into her bunkspace was a chance for me to mother her physically across the threshold.
We had driven down to Monterey the day prior and spent the night at a nearby hotel, with Ezra too, and early that morning upon awakening Arayla had climbed into bed with me and snuggled in close. Attuning to her, I could feel her nervousness and excitement as a subtle trembling in her body, and in the quiet morning space between us I could hear all the thoughts and questions churning in her mind and heart. I could feel the stretch of our psychic umbilical cord, already straining in anticipation.
It had been somewhat tense between us the past few days as we prepared for her departure~ doing laundry, last-minute errands and packing her bags~ painfully quarreling with each other before tearfully making up. We were both emotionally raw and tender as the threshold approached.
And so in the hotel bed on this morning of her departure we just lay there, breathing sweetly together, relieved to feel nothing but mutual cherishing flowing between us. I lovingly massaged her skull and played with fine strands of her honey hair just as I’ve done her entire life~ my little precious baby girl. I could sense how comforting it was to us both, to feel her resting like this, so completely relaxed in my arms, suddenly so small again. At one point she looked up at me and whispered vulnerably: “I’m really scared Mama!” and I kissed her forehead, whispering back: “Oh of course you are!… It’s so new! What a big moment! I’m so excited for you.”
As parents it’s such a continuous process of letting go and opening to the new with our children, holding them just close and tight enough, while surrendering them always deeper to their own becoming. And as we surrender them, we surrender ourselves to what must change and evolve within us in order to let them go more fully. We have to open wider and wider to let our love stretch with their sprouting wings, their glorious independence, their necessary rejection and refusal of our accompanying them into the new. We get to delight in the worlds our children find home in that have nothing to do with us; worlds to which we don't necessarily belong. We get to fan the fires of their becoming, even when we cannot personally relate to that which lights them up.
Yesterday in the first moments of camp I watched Arayla smiling and extending her hand so warmly, offering out her name with such kind confidence to other girls in the room, diving headfirst into this new life experience with such beauty and generous grace, and I felt a kind of awe surging within me. Witnessing her from the outside, I was feeling so poignantly: she is not mine, this gorgeous young woman child. She is her own! She is her own. And oh dear God how I love her.
Finally, when there was not a single thing I could re-fold, or pat down, or organize, or ask, Arayla said to me softly, sweetly, her eyes deep and kind~ “Ok Mom. It’s time.” I looked at her meekly, and then gathered my center and my courage, and repeated: “It’s time now?” And she whispered to me with a hint of humor: “I can’t have you be the last Mom to leave, ok?!” I hugged her, chuckled, and said~ “Of course, my love, Ok. We will go now.”
We walked to the car, and there she and Ezra hugged for a long time. She kissed him on the top of his head. He closed his eyes as he luxuriated in her embrace. Then I held her close and let her go all in one deep breath, saying: “I love you my beautiful love! Have an amazing time!” She pulled back quickly, nodding, waving at me, and started walking away backwards, smiling with confidence: “Ok Mom! Bye!” And just like that, in an instant, she grew up more, claiming another piece of her sacred sovereignty. It was so fast.
I got into the car, drove away, and immediately burst into tears. Oh my sweet girl~ so big, and all by herself at this camp. How could I just leave her there with all these people I don’t even know? The umbilical cord stretched painfully and my heart throbbed in my chest. Ezra comforted me by saying: “I know it’s sad to say goodbye to Arayla, Mom. But she’s really going to have an awesome time! I’m so happy for her!” I laughed, and felt so grateful for his cheery, robust company. Then he said with certainty: “I want to go to an overnight camp too, ok? How about when I’m 8?”I laughed, and then said sternly: “We will see.”
Exactly nine July’s ago, when Arayla was 2.5, on the day that we officially weaned, I wrote her a letter to mark the poignant transition. Nine Summers later, upon this current threshold of individuation, these potent Mama words of my own heart come back for me afresh, and so I share them with you here...
“….I nursed you with my breasts for the last time tonight, Little Love, but I will nurse you with my heart, my words, my silence, my laughter, my shining eyes seeing you, my listening, my hands touching you…for as long as I live. I will always nurse you, and you will always, in some amazing way, be my baby, my nursling, my sweet love, my precious child.
Today I let go of you, in the water, and you floated, treading your tiny hands, kicking your little feet with terrific aliveness, your head just barely above the surface, your eyes shining with excitement and pride: to swim(!) by yourself, untethered, unbound, to fly for a moment, in water, held up by sheer breath and blood, desire and light, intention and movement. Amazing!
And then quickly I caught you again, the very moment your eyes asked me to. Small steps of separation, of liberation, of blossoming. Small rites of passage into the next now, the next here, the next this of us.
I nursed you for the last time tonight, and I lie down, peacefully, this particular form of holding you, feeding you my heart. But I will never stop holding you or feeding you my heart, in whatever ways are right and true for us to live.
You are my child, and my teacher. I will look inside my heart to know each time when to let you go, a little more, into the vast waters of your self, and I will watch you carefully, I will watch your eyes, I will listen to the silent speakings between us, to know when to gather you up afresh, so close, so tight, into my arms, into this ever-present home of my Loving….”
And so these tender thresholds deliver us so poignantly into "the next now, the next here, the next this of us." The next New of us, stretching our hearts wider, wisening us with the gifts of trust and surrender, bringing us always more fully home to Love, to Life, to Being.