Thursday, May 21, 2009

The One Where They All Look the Same to Me; or Vic On Her Soapbox

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!

12 comments:

Nan said...

I laughed out loud about the mother who told you you didn't understand what she was going through and mind your own business. Um.. you know exactly what she is going through (thus you are in the same email group), you just have the ability to manage it in a much more productive way than wallowing in sorrow. Spending so much time and energy complaining and crying doesn't seem like the best way to support your missionary son. That woman is a "Captain You Planet"--Brian Regan (if you haven't seen him or that skit, it is a must--youtube)
I am a fan of your approach to life and your children and their adventures. In fact, I have always talked about you to people as super talented and very matter of fact with great perspective and peripheral vision...

Carolyn said...

I am standing up and clapping. Right now.

I hope I'm a mom like you when my sons go on missions.

You are my American Idol. (Had to fit that in. Everyone watched this season but me I think.)

Raechal said...

I thought some of the guys looked kind of like Josh- haha!! I couldn't see Ethan either. But you are right on about this stuff Victoria. I think it's much harder to be the kind of mom that sends her kids off (to whatever...marriage, college, mission, military...LIFE) without all the crying and complaining. Of course you are supportive and care and love them and miss them and are proud of them! but that doesn't mean you have to be a sad/complaining/talk about them constantly/I miss them like I'm gunna die kind of mom. And I do think it does more service to your children not to be that kind of mom :) also, one point I loved..."and they are not mine to keep anymore… if they ever were." so right!

Lisa--aka The Gardenweasel said...

I would love to hear more about Ethan and Casey, though.....just sayin.

I do think that is Ethan in the last picture, far left.....

It is still weird we cannot tell who he is.

I cannot wait to see him at graduation and Casey is just perfect...in about every single way. I would adopt him....and the rest of your kids!

dk/dh said...

Here's my thought:
Click on the bottom picture to make it slightly larger. Count faces from the right. Stop at 7. The posture is the giveaway. It's more pronounced than the other recruits' due to years of marching band.

I remember watching Ethan's marching band perform on Main Street USA at Disneyland. As he went by there was a matter-of-fact glance with a fingerwave--his hands never leaving the instrument.

Erika said...

I TOTALLY agree with you and I haven't sent a son out...yet. I have taught my boys independence since they were toddlers. I am not going to hover and handle every little thing for them...does that make them stronger? No. My job is to train them to fly so when they leave the nest, they are good to go! Love the post!

Erika said...

BTW, 2 of my nephews did Devil Pups down there at Pendleton... great program for boys..and I went to their graduation. No kidding, they all look the same and it was impossible to find them in the sea of look alikes.

Cindy said...

AMEN sista!!!!! I always looked at it as turning them back over to their 'Father'. They were His before they were ever mine and from that time on, the parenting role shifted a bit and tweaked when they came home. You posted it wonderfully!

P.S. Glad to hear just a wee bit about the boys...

JUST ME, THE MOM said...

I love this post, it expresses my feelings almost exactly. What I can't figure out is why mother's everywhere don't feel the same? Usually it's just beyond my comprehension that mom's would actually WANT to raise a child to be dependent on mom forever and tied to the apron strings. But they are out there and for some reason it makes them happy to do this - but I don't understand it.

Sure, they leave home eventually to become their own person, but that is just what Heavenly Father sent us ALL off to do - have our own experiences, and experience that separation so we can learn for ourselves.

I think that's a pretty great example to follow:)

Kristin

onebusychk said...

All rightee then. I am the crazy mom that shot these pictures. But I'm not the crazy mom that hovers and does everything for my kid. If anything I thought Ethan would get a big kick out of these some day. I'm about lasting treasured memories. With only one child, those 18 years went by so fast. And there was no repeating of the stages of growth children have. I imprinted all those moments the best way I knew how. And no one will disagree, that my daughter is one of the most independant kids they know. I've often felt bad that she didn't have a sibling to take some of my focus off of her. Now she is in Okinawa, Japan. And I've started a new chapter in my life. It's almost like a dream. Did I really single parent a kid in Orange County. Must have. Apparently I did crazy mom things.
I think my kid turned out all right. Heaven help her, she is stuck with me as her mom.

Victoria said...

Haha! Pauline, you are just the BEST kind of crazy! You don't end up with a daughter in the Marines if you baby them...and I'm waiting to hear what it means that Paris is in Okinawa with the General!!!

Victoria said...

Sorry, typo... Perris