It’s amazing what you can learn about your loved ones – and yourself – through a single experience. I’ve written before about the trip my son and I took to JH Ranch, a Christian summer camp that involved lots of adventure, lots of terrifying heights, and lots of life changing events.
I have a cool story that goes out to any woman who perhaps struggles with letting go of … control (as if I have met one that doesn’t in one form or another). The story is about a 10 foot vertical wall and the need to get 10 people – our team 5 moms and 5 sons – over it in 7 minutes, including planning time. It started with a challenge. And ended with some pretty profound life lessons about my relationship with my son...and myself.
Let me set the stage. The wall was vertical with absolutely nothing to grasp onto. And there was a pretend pit of death of some kind that extended 2 feet out in front of it (eg, you couldn’t get too close to it on the ground). On the back of it was a small platform (enough to hold one, maybe two people) and a few stairs down. That was it.
I looked at our team of moms and sons. Five moms, collectively nearly 50% greater in weight and height as the boys, two of which had physical limitations. We had five boys, roughly age 14, still growing and only a few that would call themselves “athletic”. My confidence in our ability to do this was very low, and worse, as a “helicopter mom” I feared that someone would get hurt in the process of our failure.
The timer went off, and we scrambled to come up with a plan. A number of ideas were thrown out, but we were not in agreement and time was vanishing . That is when my son stepped up and shared that he’d recently done a game on the beach that involved two people crossing their arms and grasping each other’s hands to make a strong... cord I’ll call it. He suggested that this could be our launching pad. Quickly, it was determined by the boys that he and the tallest boy would bear the weight and they would send the strongest boy up to the platform to pull people over the top. I hope I am creating a good visual here… So people would put their full weight on the boys arms, which would be a few feet off the ground, and they would reach up to the boy at the top who would literally lift them up and over. This was our plan. Three 14 year old boys bearing all the weight and burden.
Helicoptor mom #1, who couldn’t bear her son having to do all the heavy lifting at the top, suggested she could fit onto the platform as well and help lift. OK, good plan. Next is where I came in (helicopter mom #2). I looked at the 14 year old arms of the two boys at the base, one of which was my son, and instantly envisioned broken limbs. So I swept in! I got on hands and knees in the dirt underneath their arms and told the boys to lay their crossed arms on my back, thinking that between their strength and the option of having people stand on my back, I could protect them when the weight was too much to bear.
Here’s the interesting part from my perspective. As each person went up and over, I couldn’t see what was happening, but what I knew was that I was bearing no weight on my back. I kept saying to the boys “it’s ok, let me bear some of the weight”. But that didn’t happen. I could hear scrambling, I could hear teamwork, I could hear the scurrying up the wall, but as I sat tabletop in the dirt, I was realizing my “protection” wasn’t actually needed.
There are more details, but eventually, we all went up and over thanks to the boys strength. And eventually my son got onto the tallest boy’s shoulders and made it up and the tallest boy took a running leap, catching the hands of the boy on the platform, who lifted him up and over the top.
And we did it! In under 7 minutes. The planning, the executing, the celebrating.
At the end, we did a debrief with our leader. And here’s what I shared regarding the lessons I learned about my son and I in that exercise: #1 When the time started ticking and the pressure was on, he didn’t look to me for answers, he stepped up and helped lead the team to a successful plan. #2 He didn’t need my protection, noble as it was. #3 He was stronger than I gave him credit for, in many ways.
I shared these things, and then right then and there I apologized to him. For underestimating him – not just in this challenge, but in general.
How often had I been “clipping his wings”, deeming him uncapable and dependent on me. And why??????
What benefit comes to us when others are dependent on us?? And how is that impacting our lives and the amount of burden we create perhaps unnecessarily?
We are all consumed by a perceived lack of time in this fast-paced, performance-based world we live in. I often speak to my clients about “essentialism”, the process of examining everything in your life that takes your time and energy - with the intention of identifying what is truly essential to you and your loved ones and eliminating what isn’t. Many times there is a deep desire to eliminate, but the “have to’s” get in the way. There are just too many demands on moms (wives, daughters...) to eliminate. But are there???
I ask all women out there.: what really drives your “have to’s”? Perhaps a list of important items that have been defined by others or society in general? Is it that your spouse or your children are incapable of bearing some of the burden? Or could it be a desire to feel needed? A desire to feel important? To maintain control? To create “security”? To earn love?
Perhaps you find yourself in the familiar loop of giving and giving in an effort to garner appreciation that you often don’t get and then hold resentment for?
Is there possibility for you in relinquishing control? Is there benefit to empowering and building up the people around you? Can you accept that you are loved just as you are? Can you trust life to support you? Is there freedom here for you? Somewhere, anywhere in here, is there possibility?