My son is on his 13th full day of a 21-day Outward Bound course at the top of the South Island [in New Zealand]. All the feedback we’ve had from them since he’s been down there is that he’s really struggling physically, but has connected well with his watchmates and getting a lot of support and encouragement from them.
I’ve said for many years that I will not be an ’empty nester’, constantly worrying about my children when they’re not under my roof. But this is different. He’s in a challenging environment where contact is limited, and it’s freaking me out a little. I’m thinking about him constantly.
We spoke on the weekend to one of the staff there, only the second time we’ve heard from them, and one thing she said stuck in my head. Apparently, after he completed the high ropes course, he said ‘For the first time in my life, I’m actually proud of myself.’ It’s awesome that he was proud of himself, but incredibly sad that he felt this was the first time he’d had occasion to be so. I wanted to tell him about all the times he’d made me proud. Most recently when they told us that they given him multiple opportunities to sit out a few activities or even a couple of days to regather his energy but he refused, insisting on pushing through. He’s determined to do this. He’s also refused to call us, determined to do it on his own. But I’ll have to sit him down when he comes home and recount a whole bunch of times throughout his life when he has made us proud. Clearly we don’t tell him often enough.
Neither my husband nor I wanted him to do this course to change who he is as a person. We just wanted to teach him to believe in himself and to learn that he can do more and achieve more than he ever thought possible. He wasn’t happy, and we felt that if he could learn to persevere through the ‘I want to give up’ stage, he would find so much more satisfaction in life. I still hope that’s true, but I am finding this whole course far more stressful than I had anticipated, and I’m not even the one on it! I hate the idea that he’s down there thinking that we want him to change into a better person or that we don’t like him the way he is, or that this is his only chance to make us proud, or any of those things. We don’t, we do and it’s not. It’s about giving him tools that he can use to change his life. Not who he is.
A soul in tension that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try