Sunday, August 23, 2015

Reflections on Empty Nests and Alaska - "The Last Frontier"

Somewhere between scaling the dining room table and, “You want to climb Everest some day?!”,  I blinked and lost all control. Spit baths, curfews, and unsolicited advice are gone – I have reached the smile and nod phase of parenting.

Sigh…  Don’t misunderstand me – I am truly thankful that all of our children are either productive members or society, or at least well on their way to becoming so, and have reached the realm of the unknown – as far as parents are concerned anyway.

As I reflect on our first year as empty nesters, I have become keenly aware of just how independent our children have become.  While I cannot truly say that having an empty nest has left me prostrate, sobbing in the fetal position – I have paused at times to wonder how this phenomenon happened with such rapidity.

Exhibit A:
 Spring break should be (or so I thought) a time when all chickens return to the roost for a time of mothering, feeding and relaxation. To my dismay, they had other plans. My youngest child informed us that she would be forgoing her plans to come home, and instead be travelling to Zion Utah with a group of 15 college types, to hike, explore and camp. Really? Since when, have I ever, in the 19 years of her young life, allowed her to go ANYWHERE with people that not only do I not know, I have never even laid eyes on! She was shocked when I requested telephone numbers and, gasp, an itinerary.

“Mother – why?!”

“Oh I don’t know, just in case I want to call up a few of your new friends and regale them with some of your most embarrassing life moments.”

We managed to reach an agreement after she solicited advice from her older, and much wiser (snicker) siblings, who told her,

Just give mom what she wants and we will all be much happier –trust us.”

Side note: While the pictures of her spring break trip are breathtaking, some left me with a feeling of vertigo as I saw her perched on a cliff high above the canyon floor. I’m sure she was quite happy that mother wasn’t there with her to continually remind her to “stay away from the edge!” Perspective is key here - the cliff edge is not the same as the edge of the table from which I was constantly moving their water glasses. 

Exhibit B:
While youngest was traipsing the badlands of Utah – boy/man child was discovering new trails to blaze in Hawaii. Between hiking the Haiku stairs, (which by the way is illegal because of safety) issues )


and “Dead Man’s Cat Walk”.

 Remick had no shortage of heart stopping moments with which to thrill us - a term I use loosely.
side note: Remick, and his hiking partners did manage to have their mug-shots taken by the Honolulu PD because of this little adventure. Something we found out quite by accident 2 months later. Wonder why THAT picture never made the Instagram top 10.

Can’t you all just come home and roast marshmallows in the back-yard?

Exhibit C:
As if making Hawaii’s most wanted poster wasn’t enough, Remick secured a job as a white water rafting guide in Denali Alaska for the summer.  
WHAT THE HECK? Does he even have white water guide credentials?

“Minor details Mom – its called on the job training.”

If I thought that military crawling at 4 months old, and walking just short of 9 months was scary – imagine how this made me feel.

Relax mom, I’m pretty sure they won’t be scheduling me for class V rapids anytime soon.”

Really? Well that’s a relief. I was thinking of calling his boss and telling him how good Remick is with older people, and perhaps he would do well on the Lazy J river tour for the next 4 summers.

Update on rafting in Denali: I am kind of eating my words as we did have the opportunity to visit Alaska this summer and raft with Rem. I have to say, it was one of the most exciting adventures I have ever experienced. Truly awe inspiring to be completely at the mercy of the rapids with my son at the helm. I have a whole new appreciation for: “This is where we see how much you trust me.” when Remick was maneuvering the edge of a class V rapid, telling us that“We just got a piece of that one”.

 Alaska truly is the last frontier, and if I never see another pit toilet for the rest of my life, I’m pretty sure I’ll survive. Yes, we also saw a grizzly and yes, this is about as personal as I care to ever be with one. (hint: the white lump in the distance is in fact a very large, man eating, in the wild, bear!)

Alaska wouldn't be Alaska without other wild life sightings.

Other noteworthy Alaskan adventures included: Hiking in the pristine wilderness in which one forges their own trails, and if you encounter wild life, it is entirely at your own peril. You will not be rescued by Grizzly Adams, instead you are at the mercy of newly minted mountain man - AKA Remick Kawawaki:

Adventures would not be complete without at least one mass feeding.

Nor would it be complete without an encounter with Alaska's national bird - the mosquito. Adequate preparation is essential.

Empty nests make these moments all the more precious and we would do well to covet these moments, being sure to unpackage them during those times we feel most vulnerable.

As summer draws to a close, and Remick and Easton are once again back on campus, the lack of laundry makes me wonder if they were ever even home for the summer. To clarify, they weren’t on campus for the last 3 months, but neither were they actually “home”. The new found independence and maturity I witnessed does a mommy’s heart proud, but it is also bittersweet. The look in Rem’s eyes as he left Alaska made me realize that he will never be the same after experiencing the “last frontier” in such an up close and personal way. As I watched Easton maneuver the responsibility of a full time job as well as part time photographer, I realized that she is well on her way to being self-sufficient.

Giving our kids wings, and letting them fly  soar, is not easy. As parents we tend towards clinging rather than letting go. It is in the letting go however, that we truly realize their full potential. Sometimes that is frightening, to be sure. Lest I get to feeling too unnecessary, I am reminded that yes they do still need me when I get a text ….”mom, I need contacts”.

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