My oldest son has left home to study abroad for the next year and a half. It was time for him to go, to leave the nest, and he was well prepared to do so. I have not been without my fears for this boy over the years—I am a mother after all. But the good news is, he has left home at a time in his life and mine when I no longer harbor those fears.
I started journeying on a regular basis when my son was a boy of about 15. At the time, I simply could not fathom how he was going to make it in the world. He seemed so immature, uninspired and withdrawn. He was very different from other boys his age, and didn’t seem to be keeping in stride socially or otherwise. One of the first journeys I ever took was in regard to my fears that he would flounder and fail. He was so smart and so curious—was it possible he would amount to nothing?
My journey revealed that it was not my role to determine when and how my son should leave the nest. It was not my place to judge how long it took him to fly, or how gracelessly he might learn. It was only my job to provide the nest and demonstrate by my own willingness to take flight, how these things are done.
To make me feel a little less helpless, I was told I could get him a power animal if he wanted one, and so I asked my son if he would like to have a power animal of his own.
I began my journey by climbing a hill dotted with caves. When I got to the top, I remember I had to put my head into a rock opening about the size of a washtub. It made me squeamish, because the inside of that hole was teeming with bats. They clicked and hummed and chirped so loudly, I couldn’t stand it. I pulled my head back out and started to walk away, but was immediately pursued by one feisty little bat. He was jumping up and down on the path below me to get my attention. I frowned.
“Are you my son’s power animal?”
“I am,” he said proudly.
“What can you bring him?” I asked, thinking to myself: a bat, for heaven’s sake, how is this going to help matters?
“Well, he said,” “I can teach him how to fly.”
Cheeky little guy—of course he had my attention now.
“In fact, I can teach him how to fly in the dark and fly far. I can even teach him how not to slam into walls when he has no idea where he’s going.”
Okay, now he was just showing off.
“And I can teach him how to follow the pack.”
I was sold on this little guy—I thought he was perfect.
Last summer my son awoke me one night to tell me there was a bat in our basement. “What should I do?” he asked.
Groggily, I sat up on one elbow and said: “Well, it’s your power animal. You figure it out,” Then I slumped back down on my pillow and tried to go to sleep.
But sleep wouldn’t come. I lay there for a few minutes, and then got up to find him researching the internet on how to catch a bat. He assembled his tools on the kitchen counter—oven mitts, flashlight, broom, a towel, a large plastic container with a lid. He looked at me and gave me a little grin, as if to say: “okay, I’m going in.”
I dragged myself back upstairs to bed, and lay down. But instead of going peaceably to sleep, I began to worry about him getting bit. I closed my eyes and sank into a light journey. First, I asked his power animal to protect him. Then, I asked that the bat in the basement would see the bat within my son and allow itself to be led out. A little while later I heard the garage door going down and I smiled.
Nowadays, I speak to my son online early in the morning just as he is about to lie down and go to sleep on the other side of the world. He is on a big adventure, and he is loving every minute of it. I don’t know that my son will ever follow the pack—don’t think he’s wired that way—but all in all, his power animal didn’t do such a bad job of it.