Peacemonger Mom

My son just enlisted in the military. I'm a peace activist. Why couldn't he have rebelled in some other way, like being republican?

Sunday, August 13, 2006

No Address for the Letter, But Why Let That Stop Me?

Dearest B—

I wonder what you are doing right now, as I sit and play a video game, and recover from my semester. Summer semesters are always so awful, so intensely packed with things you have to do, and things you have to read, and it’s just too much, in too short of a time. I have sworn that this is my last summer session, unless I am teaching, and I will probably not like it any more then than I do now.

This is the first letter that I am sending to you in boot camp (if, that is, you send me your address). I told myself that I wouldn’t write ahead of time – that I would wait to hear from you before I began to write you letters. Obviously, that didn’t work.

I worry about you – you know that – and I won’t go into all the reasons that I do. You probably know them, and if you don’t, it’s probably just as well. I check the internet to see what is going on with you during certain phases of your boot camp (basic training? Boot camp? I don’t know what to call it – my knowledge of military phrases was summarily “booted” out of my brain as soon as was possible for me…) and I know that at this point in your training, you are still being taught by the Drill Instructors how to brush your teeth, how to walk in a straight line, how to behave -- in other words, like you belong in the situation where you find yourself. These are all things that I wanted so badly for you to learn, and that I tried so hard to teach you. I’m told that I didn’t fail in what I tried to do, but instead that I did my best, and sometimes people just don’t see eye to eye, including mothers and sons. I wish worse than anything that I knew exactly what sort of mother you wanted and needed me to be, and I wish even more that you knew the sort of boy I wanted you to be. Not for anything, though, do I want you to think that I would trade you for another Boy. You are my Boy, and I love you. I can’t imagine a life without you in it, and I only mean that I wanted you to grow into a young adult who wanted me in his life. It seems sometimes that that wasn’t the case.

Actually, what it seems is that you felt that you couldn’t love both me and your dad at the same time – that I would be hurt if you loved your dad, or that he would be hurt if you loved me. I can only speak for me, but I can tell you totally and without question that I wanted, always, for you and your dad to have a good relationship. I know how hard it is to have a family that winds up in divorce court. I didn’t, however, ever have a situation where I saw my dad hitting my mom, and I don’t know how that winds up dealing with your view of the world. Or, for that matter, your view of your dad...and now that I think of it, how it effects your view of your mother. I don’t want you (and really, honestly, never, ever did) to have some sort of idea that your dad isn’t worth your affection. I want you and your dad to get along, and love each other. I don’t think, though, that your dad is lacking in love or affection from you. I do think that your dad is lacking in understanding of the way to be a good dad. That doesn’t mean, though, that I think that you are lacking in understanding of how to be a good son. You are a good son, and your happy, smiling face got me through so many unhappy times. You and your blonde curls, your sweet voice, your hugs and kisses – you were always such an affectionate boy. Then something changed as you aged. I took it mostly as a desire not to be seen as “uncool” (or whatever it is that y’all call it now – uncrunk, or unfly or notgangsta or whatever it is that you say now), but you stopped being the sweet boy I birthed, and became a boy who seemed to want nothing to do with what I thought was important and good and the right way to live. I understand that at the age where you are, nothing really matters except yourself and your friends, and what your friends think, and what you are doing. But there is so much more in the world than just that. There is your soul, and the right thing to do, and the wrong thing. I don’t want you to feel like I am lecturing you (and honestly, I’m thinking that you’ve probably already skipped a lot of what I wrote and really, I will give you one hundred bucks if you tell me that you read this far, and actually read this and read the paragraph before, and the paragraph after. I’ll require some background, perhaps an essay. I know - you should send me a letter, boy, that has this phrase in it: I think that Abba is cool. That way I’ll know you read this, because I know that you have no idea who the hell Abba is. It’s an old folks band, and I taped them on my little cassette player off my AM radio when I was 9 thanks a lot). I know very well that you are beyond the lecturing point. You are a grown up, and I always thought that what I wanted for you was independence, making your own decisions, and doing what you thought was right, without anyone else telling you or influencing you. I thought that that was what I wanted for you and for me – as your mother.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up one day to find that you had, indeed, made your own decision (or at least a decision I couldn’t negate, nullify or refuse to accept, agree to, or sign a permission slip for) and suddenly that meant you were gone. It has been a real wakeup to me that what I thought I believed in during the past years with regards to you – and to DQ – while I still believe that it is what is best for you, may not actually be what I want for me. It’s still what I want for you, and nothing will make me change that (nothing that you or DQ could do will make me think that I know what you want/need better than you do). But I know that what I need is a closer relationship with you – you are My Boy, you are the reason that I kept myself sane and eventually got the two of us out of the poisonous situation that was my marriage to Ex. Spending all of my time trying to stay alive has a way of altering the way that one deals with every other aspect of life. It becomes very, very hard to play, or go to the park, or reveal too many emotions towards you, my son and the most important thing in my life, when having to worry every second of every day about how each action will be viewed, and how exactly to get through what’s in front of you. Please know that that was not your fault, that Ex and I were simply not suited for each other, and had some serious personality issues that really meant we would be much better off married to anyone other than each other – it had nothing to do with you. And I realize that this is a very late letter to send you, but I treat DQ as an adult, and did as soon as she turned 18, and I will try to do the same with you. I have had little practice with this, you see, because you took off after graduation and I had no way to reach you, and you didn’t call me, and I didn’t want to interfere in your life, and it all got so complicated. Not to mention, practicing on DQ isn’t the same as dealing with you – you and DQ are very, very different animals.

So there we go. That’s somewhere within shouting distance of where I want to start with regard to things with you – I feel like you are learning a lot where you are there at Ft. Hell about yourself, and what you actually can do (you do know that you have a pretty awful self image, right? And that you can do so much more than you give yourself credit for?). I know that you will do so well, and you have the strength and fortitude to get through whatever gets tossed at you in basic. I want you to do well in this, and I want you also to be willing to talk to me. I don’t know if you know it, but I want you to succeed at whatever it is that you choose to do. If your choice of things to do is career soldier, I want you to be the best soldier that you can. I would much rather that you did something that didn’t put you in danger, but this is your choice. What you want to do, and what you think is best is now, officially, The Thing to do. Becoming a “grown up” doesn’t just mean that suddenly you can stay up as late as you want. Sure, you CAN, but who wants the repercussions later? It’s all in the cause and effect. And that, my dear son, is the true meaning of being a grown up.

I hope things are good for you there at Ft. Hell, and I go to the webcam every day, just in case I can see you. I know I can’t but it makes me feel better – some – to know that I can see where you are. I had no idea that being a mother was going to come back and bite me in the ass so hard when you were an adult. Here I thought that labor and delivery was the tough part and your adulthood was going to be the easy time. Thanks. Thanks bunches. ☺

I want to hear from you, and if this letter ever gets mailed, it will mean that you actually wrote me and sent me your address. I feel a gap, a hole, a huge, enormous whistling pain in my heart not to be able to talk with you, see you, and know what you are doing and thinking and wanting. I miss you. And you don’t have to have the blonde curls to be my sweet boy, either.

I love you—

Momma

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