So Ethan is in his 9th week of Basic Training. We get letters a couple of times a week. Usually on little tiny notebook paper… random thoughts, etc. I have have had missionaries out in the field continuously for so long, now, that I don’t really think about this time as being particularly long. Yes, I worry about him when I hear that he has had pneumonia for two weeks. Or that he had his wisdom teeth out during one of the harder weeks. Or that he has a foot injury that might keep him from graduating on time. But all in all, I just try to write him frequently and pray for him to be strong enough to do it.
But today I went onto the message boards at a website for the families of recruits, and found that many of them (the mothers, that is) are following every single move these men make at Basic Training. They know, practically to the hour, what they are doing on any given day. They are already ordering banners and T-shirts for graduation, and planning rallies, and all sorts of things that completely baffle my brain.
This is not a new story for me. It goes back to when I was a new missionary mom. I signed up to be on an e-mail group for the missionary moms of my son’s mission. While I gained some valuable information every now and again, I also began to be annoyed, and even concerned by many of the e-mails. While it was helpful to know that a particular day was a national holiday in Argentina, and I should not expect my weekly e-mail that day, I found that many of the moms wanted to share other things. They wanted to take up a petition to send to the mission president complaining about his mail policy. Or they wanted to commiserate about how traumatic it was to drop their sons off at the Missionary Training Center. (Some changed the M.T.C. acronym to say “Mothers Torture Chamber!”) Some of the moms were hoping for sightings of their sons by church members in the area. One mother told how she had taken to crying herself to sleep in her missing son’s bedroom! WHAT? When I suggested to one of those (how can I put this kindly?) less-than-stable mothers that one way I cope with the loss of sending a son out was to provide service to the missionaries stationed in my own area (you know, like letting them live with me?), I was informed in a very public group e-mail that I could not understand what she was going through, and needed to mind my own business.
I realized some time ago that while it is not always easy to send my boys off, that they were bravely going to provide a service that no one else could perform, and that they were called to do so, and in the long run that had very little to do with me, and everything to do with the boy and his personal relationship with God. It occurred to me that every time I even considered complaining, I should remember the mother whose son was not well enough to serve. The one whose son had unresolved moral issues that made it impossible for him to go. The heartbreaking challenges of those boys who wanted and tried to go, but had health or emotional issues that forced them home early. The mother whose son chose worldly pursuits over church or military service... or, heaven forbid...last year, a boy Casey’s age was killed in a car accident while he was preparing to serve. And even beyond those circumstances, there is the fact that when these boys return home, they are no longer boys, but rather men, and they are not mine to keep anymore… if they ever were. I removed myself from those e-mail lists a long time ago, and have never looked back.
Often I have observed that my stoicism is interpreted as a lack of caring. Let me just be clear here. Just because I don’t share Casey’s mission exploits or Ethan’s derring-do in every other post, or to every person I meet, does not mean that I am one iota less proud of them, or love them one teensy bit less than the other moms love their boys. I am, in fact, trying to do my boys a favor, by giving them the gift of independence, rather than tying them down with the thought that their mother is home languishing in grief because of their absence. Am I making any sense here, people? You will have to give me your opinions on this subject, because it is one that I have faced for the last few years.
Which rant (sorry about the soapbox) leads me back to the story about Ethan. One of the Recruit moms hid on the base after a graduation at MCRD last week… behind the bleachers set up for graduation… in order to snap a few pictures of Ethan’s platoon. All I am saying is, that is probably not something I would have considered. But since she did, and shared the photos, I get to post a couple here for you to enjoy. I have been puzzling over them for two days, now… because I can’t tell which one is Ethan. While eliminating a couple of recruits for obvious ethnic reasons, I seriously can’t tell the rest of them apart!