Sam's 13th birthday is approaching. It has caused me to do a lot of thinking about this boy and how he has grown and changed over the past few years. Shoot ... one can hardly call him a "boy" anymore; he is at least as tall as anyone else in the family and taller than several. But it's not just his stature. He is becoming more thoughtful and responsible every day.
It is with that in mind that I hesitated only a little when he asked me if he could sit by himself when he went out to hunt this morning. It's opening day of the firearm deer season (the kids have the day off school for it), and for a mama like me the thought of sending her firstborn out into the woods before dawn ... and carrying a gun ... can be a little unsettling. Because accidents happen. And he really is just a kid, isn't he? That means above all it is my responsibility to keep him safe.
The older he gets the harder it is to make those decisions that could mean the difference between keeping Sam tucked inside this safe little bubble at home or allowing him to go out into the world (or the woods, as it were) and face the potential to be hurt - physically or emotionally - and to learn some tough life lessons. Maybe to make some big decisions on his own. And hopefully, to learn what success feels like.
He is not alone today. We are fortunate to have within our extended family some wonderful men who have taken Sam under their wings while his dad is working so far away. We are also fortunate that deer camp is a big old school house down the road within walking distance from home. Sam has been there since Saturday afternoon - I literally have not seen him for more than a few minutes at a time. I hear about what he's doing in bits and pieces - hunting with his bow (archery season precedes firearm season) the last few days, going out with the uncles to move trail cameras and check bait piles and tidy up their stands, I guess. And when he came to the house to get his gun last night and to check with me that he could sit by himself today, he was practically glowing. When I told him he could as long as the uncles were nearby, he came to me and hugged me and said, "I love you, mom."
I'll take it.
I have not seen that boy so happy in quite a while. He is in his element. He's with the guys, away from mom. He is free to be who he wants to be (within reason) and to experience some independence.
It's a big day for both of us.