I’m sitting here, on the eve of my firstborn’s 6th birthday, tucked comfortably into a camping chair, the fire pit burning away. The kids are in the tent with their dad, colouring before bed, relaxing after a long and active day. For the moment, I have perfect peace and a wonderful bit of alone time.
I’m very much a Type A personality—a definitive Virgo, a control freak. I always aim to be two steps ahead of the kids to minimize the meltdowns. Will they be hungry soon?—Prep the snack! Will they be tired soon?—Get them upstairs! But today, here, all of that has faded away. Literally, the moment I stepped out of the car, the moment I felt the woods surround me, that Virgo-ego-control morphed into calm. I let go.
I was raised by an overprotective mom. Growing up I craved freedom and space—I always prided myself my adventurous spirit. But motherhood changed me. Along with the birth of my kids arrived an onslaught of nonsensical fears. I could hardly cross a bridge without imagining the car going over, mentally planning for a safe escape from our submerged minivan. No joke, motherhood turned me crazy.
Recently, however, I’ve felt a shift. Glimmers of pre-kid me have been lighting up, like bright and sizzling sparklers in the night. I have a craving for adventure that goes 6 years (and nine months) deep. But the fears—how to navigate the fears?
Somehow this camping trip became the answer.
The Japanese term for time spent rejuvenating in nature is “forest bath.” This is my forest bath. The calm I feel out in these woods is truly rejuvenating. This feeling has also affected my mothering. It dawned on me today that this camping trip, as opposed to our previous trips, I don’t have to worry so much. The kids are old enough. My son doesn’t need to be harnessed to a tree so he’ll stay off the road long enough for us to make dinner. My daughter doesn’t need my help to go to the bathroom, or to change clothes, or to find her shoes. I no longer wipe bums. The kids are old enough. They don’t need me to be their entertainer, I can sit on my blanket and watch dragonflies while they entertain themselves for hours in the sand. We don’t need to hold hands. It’s ok if they run up ahead. I’m not worried that someone will trip and fall into the fire pit… Although that could happen. But it’s best not to think about it.
The kids are old enough.
Although of course I want to play Go Fish while lazing in the tent. And I want to kick the soccer ball out on the field. And of course I love it when my kids want to hold my hand. But my forest bath has allowed me to experience these purely, for what they are. No control. No worry. No grand master plan devised to keep them safe or stave off boredom. They’re old enough for me to trust them, to give them freedom and space.
And there comes the a-ha—
And there comes peace.
As a teenager I often told my mom that I couldn’t control the world around me, but I could do my best to make good decisions for myself. I wanted to live, I wanted to experience. I wasn’t afraid. Not only do I miss that feeling, I would rather my kids grow up feeling free than feeling afraid. I want them to use their judgment rather than simply saying no to life’s experiences. I want them to find their own comfort zone. So far they have been existing in a comfort zone of my making—far enough so as not to be called a helicopter mom, close enough just the same. Today, that comfort zone expanded beyond measure.
My son ran up to us today at the beach, he wanted to go back to our campsite. My husband suggested they go together and build a fire. I watched them walk off, father and son, then turned back to the water. I watched the light waves rolling, I watched the birds and the trees, I watched the dragonflies zooming by. With an empty mind and a full spirit, I watched the sky, the kayakers, and the children on the beach. I watched my daughter, my birthday girl, with the sun on her skin, and felt that same sun on mine. She came to me then, lying on my blanket she found a place in my arms. And that is how we stayed for what felt like forever. Total calm, total peace, total love.
Tomorrow, perhaps, we will seek out some adventure.
Originally published on Yummy Mummy Club, July 27, 2017.