ROOTS AND WINGS
Updated: Feb 4
There are only two lasting bequests that we hope for our children. One is roots and the other wings. – Hooding Carter
When my oldest reached his first birthday I framed this quote with the pictures of every month of his first year of life. Including capturing a tender moment with his father the man I believed would be his compass and rock from entering his life at six months to adulthood. But so many of those lasting bequests are an illusion now as I listen to the resentment, anger, and fear that resonates in interactions with my boys.
Being a mother of boys can be very lonely. Sometimes I feel like God blessed and cursed me at the same time. When they were little I was their world, their rock and the number one woman in their lives. Mama could solve problems, heal hurts and they would be content indulging me in my interest as they learned to be well-rounded men one day. How did we go from the innocence of an infant to the anger and resentment of teenagers? No one prepares you for how tough some roots are to take hold and that not all wings are built to fly.
I started this blog entry and walked away from it more times than I can count. Partly because my relationship with my boys is constantly in flux and also because this is a vulnerable topic to explore. My admission to how I have and am navigating this started as a defeat but has manifested into the ability to release what I cannot control.
I was raised to believe our children are an extension of ourselves. We hurt when they do, their battles are ours and who they become is a reflection on who we guided them to be. In my new perspectives on relationships, I have been questioning this message of my ownership in their journey. The maternal instinct in me wants to fix the problems and lay the path in front of them, but the wisdom of my own mistakes and their painful repeated lessons remind me that they have to make and own the path they have chosen with the good and the bad.
Even though I knew I wanted to be an educator and surrounded by children, I had never really thought about myself as a mother. Until that path was chosen for me when I got pregnant my junior year of college. My first son was born in the fall of my senior year, and while still nursing him at 13 months I found out I was pregnant with my second boy. Only three years after that I again was expecting baby number 3, another boy. All the while, I completed my bachelor’s with a 4.0, started my professional path as a classroom teacher, and married the man I was planning to spend the rest of my life with.
Those first seven years were a blur. Once I stopped being a continuous lactating machine, I’m pretty sure I made it through with daily doses of coffee and the village of women who surrounded me when I began my teaching career, also known as my Strathmore sistas. I was fresh out of college with a thirteen-month-old baby in tow and one on the way. It was not easy to manage it all, but I knew it was my job to make sure that the men I brought into this world would have deep roots that led them to be strong, loving, and capable men who would someday enhance someone’s life. However, “Life happens while we are making plans”. No quote is as true as this. I may have had a projected outcome for my boys’ futures that wasn’t where their paths were intended to lead.
The roots should’ve been easy, that’s the foundation children have in knowing there is always something grounding them and holding them together when the world threatens to break them down. That is unless one person nurtures the soil and tends to the care of the roots and the other adult in their life cuts the sprouts as soon as they settle while pouring toxic chemicals into the ground they feed on. Roots can’t grow when they are planted in unhealthy soil and stunted from flourishing. The boys couldn’t grow strong roots in the conditions they were given. Now I am living the reality of what that looks like in a young man’s life.
My oldest started walking five days after his first birthday. At that point, he had two cousins who were five months older and one who was three months younger. All of which had been walking and moving around with ease months earlier. As he took those first few precarious steps before his little round buddha-like body fell to his knees, I had to resist the urge to help. My maternal instincts were to move all the obstacles out of his way and clear a path so that he could walk with ease and learn without so much trouble, but I also knew that if I did that, he wouldn’t know how to navigate the chairs and tables and might potentially give up.
I’m not sure if my fear has been that my children would give up or that I needed to support their growth to pave an easier road, but I made a conscious decision to let go and let him learn to walk. That one paid off, because not only him, but all three of my boys mastered walking eventually. There is some solace in letting go when you know the outcome has a high success rate. There aren’t too many toddlers who don’t eventually get there. But what happens when you can’t control the obstacles and you know the success rate is significantly lower given what options are available to them? Letting go is a test on your soul as a mother.
Without those roots, the wings are faulty and weak. Now as I watch them at 20,18 and 15 years old, I wonder how to let go of them before they are prepared to soar alone. There is a failure to launch, but it can no longer be my responsibility to make them fly. At some point that will and desire to live for themselves has to take over and lead them to their path. I can’t nor do I want to live for them. I have had my own young adult adventure that led me where I am, now they will need to do the same.
Doesn’t make it easier, but it does remind me that it’s time and it’s the way life is meant to work. The last thing they need is someone who enables them from being and doing better. And the one thing I need is to protect my peace and embrace the release. They have to find the space to spread their wings, the strength to keep them moving, and the will to take a chance and soar high knowing they may fall at any point. Roots and wings are all we can give our children and for ourselves, we have to reserve grace and patience to know we did what we could within our control and the rest is up to fate.