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Free to be

There’s a preschool in our neighboring town that brings its students into the woods to play. I pass by them as I walk my dog. They carry big sticks to build forts and run around exploring and singing.

Why do we think that this should stop at age four?

My son is a freshman in high school. Running around in the woods all day is exactly what he needs right now. I feel a sense of longing and sadness as I watch the children be free - to explore and create.

I had those same feelings as I watched the movie Jungle Book. I could see my son in Mogley, traipsing around the jungle, swinging in the trees, creating things.

Except he doesn’t.

He lives in a home with electronics and spends most of his time worrying about keeping, or not keeping up with his school work. Occasionally he gets into the woods behind our house but we worry about ticks. The neighbors worry about intruders and call the police because my son gets turned around and ends up behind their house.

Don’t be free.

Don’t explore.

It’s not safe.

You’ll get into trouble.

What would happen if he were free? Free to create, to run, to explore? What kind of person would emerge. I can only guess that it would be his true self. One that is happy, confident and excited. One that feels connected to himself and the world around him.

It’s hard that his mother loves learning in a classroom. Hard for her and I’m sure hard for him. Acceptance isn’t easy but watching him struggle is even harder.

I tug on my dog’s leash as I try to head for home. But he resists. He wants to sniff and nose around in the bushes. He gets his way as I stop and wait for him to fully experience the scent. He lifts his leg, free to make his mark.

On the way home I indulge him by putting the rear window down as far as it will go. He sticks his head out and lets the warm breeze blow on him. But he stays steady, sticking his tongue out, fully and completely being who he is.

Becoming my true self has taken me decades. Cumulative years of learning, laughing, making mistakes and learning some more. It's the journey of living, a journey that we go through with others but is ours alone.

Watching our children on their journey can be painful at times. We feel their heartaches in our own chests. We cringe when they stumble and fall. We know that they need to make their mistakes and learn their own lessons but our co-mingled cells make that near impossible at times.

I just discovered that there's actually a scientific name for this.

It's called microchimerism.

That's a fancy name for what we mothers have known all along. A mother's placenta allows for cells to be transferred both ways from mother to baby and from baby to mother. There exists a physical connection between a mother and her child.

Right now I know that I must calm my instinct to fix, to do, to worry. I need to let go just a little and let my son be free to learn his way, to make mistakes, to feel his successes are truly his.

This I know will set us both free - free to be our true selves, yet still forever connected.

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