“Charlie, will you please lead your mother back out the door?” said his teacher. It was the second day at our new Montessori school. Charlie was four years old.
Fast-forward eight years.
Same son, now suited up in football pads and carrying his shiny new helmet, walked with me into the gym and joined a sea of 12-year-old boys lining up for the season’s pre-season weigh-in. The head coach looked at me and said, “Hi. You’re not the one playing football. Go over there.”
And just last night, Charlie said, “Coach J sent a text saying we need to tell our parents not to text or email him. He communicates with us not parents.”
Three scenarios. Same message. Yet this time I don’t flinch. This time it makes sense. These wise teachers and coaches have been doing what I need to do now without their guidance: help my sons progress further down the road to becoming healthy, independent young men. The first step is breaking ties from me. These include the virtual ties – those emails I send during the school day that suddenly put me into their private learning worlds. I need to head out the virtual door, too.
Joseph Campbell’s words help me. In “The Power of Myth” he says:
“The rituals of primitive initiation ceremonies are all mythologically grounded and have to do with killing the infantile ego and bringing forth an adult, whether it’s the girl or the boy. It’s harder for the boy than for the girl, because life overtakes the girl. She becomes a woman whether she intends to or not, but the little boy has to intend to be a man. … The boy first has to disengage himself from his mother, get his energy into himself, and then start forth. That’s what the myth of ‘young man, go find your father,’ is all about … the father represents self.”
Boy or girl, the vital quest is the same: Go. Find yourself. We will be awaiting your return with open arms.