Monday, February 15, 2010

What Percy Jackson Taught Me About Letting Go

We took the boys to see Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightening Thief this weekend. I dig a message I found in this story which even its creators may not have given real thought to. At the end of the movie, once Percy has successfully completed his journey, he returns to the "camp" where other kids like him (Half Bloods: half human, half god) live and train. His mother is with him but she can't enter into the camp because she is fully human. So they stand at the entrance and she hugs him tightly; they promise to see each other soon, and then she tells him this is where he belongs now, to not worry about her. He has a destiny to fulfill and she's not going to stand in the way.

What a powerful message. Let me repeat in my own words for effect: You are becoming a man now, and that journey is more important than my own need for you. I want you to succeed in your destiny. I'm not going to stand in the way.

Much has been written and analyzed over the years about mothers and their little boys who are tied to the apron strings. We all know men-boys who never really launched into manhood and quite often there is a strong mother figure behind him refusing to let him go. In fact, our culture is drowning in a culture of youth who have no idea what it means to become an adult. We adults tsk-tsk their lack of vision and commitment. But have we helped show them HOW? or are we standing in the way?

Being the parents of three boys and often feeling dismayed about how best to help them become men, we've been doing a lot of talking and research on the topic. Various cultures hold rites of passage for young men and women. The most well known are bar mitzvahs--the Jewish celebration for an adolescent boy who has reached puberty. Some cultures observe more stringent practices, such as sending a boy into the wilderness for a vision quest. We've talked to other parents who have created their own types of passages because nothing really exists in the American culture to help our youth GROW UP.

With that in mind, Tom and I are planning a sort of Christian Bar Mitzvah for Graeme this summer when he turns 12. We are beginning now with a range of teaching tools to help prepare him. Traditionally, the Jewish culture does this at the age of 13 for boys but we felt with Graeme entering into middle school, we want to prepare him now. I discovered a book called Bar Barakah a blessing ceremony meant to empower a young person into adulthood:

If parents do nothing else on this earth regarding their children, the one thing God intended for them to do is to make sure that they are agents of God's impartation of identity and destiny to their children...Blessing is God's mechanism of settling identity and destiny in the heart. Without it, many people spend a lifetime trying to settle in their own way the internal issues of identity and destiny (Am I of any value? Do I belong? Do I have purpose?)

How many of today's teens are lost in depression, drugs, sex, crime trying to answer those very questions?

As a mother, this is especially challenging because to become a young man, my boys need to identify less with me and more with their dad. In part of the Bar Barakah ceremony, the mother and son stand together and she blesses him, then sends him to the front to his father and other men from the community where he will take his place among them. She's still his mother but she's no longer his mommy. There's a big difference. And the reality that as the mother of three boys I may have to face some loneliness as they move away from me towards manhood. I recall the scene in Percy where his mother reassures him that she'll be alright on her own. Again, his destiny is more important than her emotional drive to feel needed. The world needs him to fulfill that destiny.

I believe the world needs Graeme; bright, sensitive, loving Graeme. Have you seen this kid? I have always said you could drop him into the middle of nowhere and he would emerge with a friend, even if he couldn't speak the language. He's a friend to everyone. God's got a unique plan for him. I wouldn't want to stand in the way.

At the end of the day, my mark of success as a mom won't be how much my child loves me but how much I love him--enough not only to let him go but to be his launch pad into manhood with a smile and a "I'll be okay. You've got great things to accomplish. Now GO FOR IT!"