“Hey Mama this is a long paddle,” We beckoned to Emily, our 25 year old San Juan Island kayaking guide. We had taken to calling our guide “Mama” acknowledging she was in charge.
“Just around the bend, we will be out of this chop soon, don’t worry these are sea kayaks, they are built to ride the waves.”
My husband Bill and I were in our double kayak paddling near my sisters Jane and Julie. Emily was in a single, and like a good Mama bird was keeping her duckies close and safe.
We had never surfed down the trough of a 2 foot roller, having only kayaked on flat waters close to shore, but we were crossing over to an inlet and the tankers far off were adding their enormous wakes to our already windy chop.
My sister Jane had invited our sister Julie, myself and my husband Bill on a post wedding trip to the San Juan Islands for a 5-day bike and kayak adventure with Crystal Seas Kayaking. It turned out to be the best way to let go after my kids’ 3 day wedding celebration in Seattle.
Adrenaline racing, arms aching as our bodies leaned into the pounding wind and waters, our eyes never lost sight of our totally in charge 25 year old”Mama Bear.” There was comfort in that. She chanted, “Keep paddling, you will stay steady and you will be fine.” We did what we were told and it was beyond exhilarating.
Reflecting on this past year’s events that had taken me out of the familiar and into new territory, it appears this kayak ride is the perfect metaphor for this past year.
In unfamiliar waters, I had to rely on those with the plan — my kids. Themes of “Letting Go,” “Trust the Process,” “This is Their Time”, “Love, Enjoy, and Listen to The Kids, They Know Best“ all apply to this living and breathing paddling metaphor.
Within 9 months, both my boys got married. One in September at 10,000 feet on a mountain top in Colorado, and the other at sea level in Seattle. Like a wind that blew through and left a changed landscape, so has our family composition. Both boys chose fantastic women who they had dated for several years and whose love had visibly grown and grown over those years. Each madly in love, they were following their hearts.
My role as Mom had begun to change as the boys each found their own first ladies. Now, a new title was being bestowed on me, “Mother-in-Law” — a term that along with the hyphens (not one but two hyphens each one representing a further distance from Mom) in the title “In-law” carries a step aside separateness and distance and not always the sweetest of images for many.
But, I learned something incredible at this most recent wedding in Seattle from my son’s new bride’s Mom, Ramila, that made my heart sing. Ramila is Indian and we spent a long time talking about her culture and traditions and the upcoming Indian wedding which preceded the second night’s Jewish wedding.
Ramilla and I sat down to a “Just us Moms Coffee” the day before the official ceremony. This would be our first time alone together and a much needed opportunity to get to know each other. Ramila is an amazing woman and being Moms, our hearts were instantly connected.
We each spoke of our traditions, raising our kids, how we saw this next phase of marriage for our children and our hopes.
She told me that in her tradition, my Jake was now her son. “Wow, that’s awesome I said, does that mean her Hetal is now my daughter (with no murmur of in-law)? “Absolutely.” Suddenly, getting rid of those hyphens made the connection feel even stronger.
“How nice is this” I thought.
I shared this story with my other daughter-in-law, Hope and asked if she thought we should adopt this tradition and with a huge smile she said. “Absolutely, I’m going to call you Ma.”
We both giggled and although it felt new and a tad awkward for both of us, it felt good.
Oh, those shifting tides which bring new sands to our shores are the greatest gifts of raising children!
After an exhausting 2 hours of paddling we finally pulled into a magical inlet. We arrived grateful that we were dry and safe with hearts palpitating from the adventure. We looked back over the vast water we’d crossed thrilled we had dug in and kept paddling acknowledging the unknowns, and uncertainties along the journey.