Raising a warrior

My hair stylist is a tough man of few words. But he has opened up as he has gotten to know me. Today, he is a chatterbox. I have just introduced him to the enneagram when this tatted up, ponytailed tough guy tells me he is certain he would be some sort of warrior type.

And, he’s lost me. “Warrior” sends me down the rabbit hole. As he prattles on, I am thinking about the heat index at a U.S. military fort. My eldest is at this fort in U.S. Army basic training and yes, I check the fort weather each and every darn day. It’s blisteringly hot today and I wonder how far he had to run, how much gear he had to carry.

A client mentioned going to battle against a competitor this week, during a conference call. People really need to stop calling what they do from a corporate office “battle.” When they talk about being at the “tip of the spear,” it sounds ridiculous to those of us with loved ones who might actually be in that war zone situation someday. As this client continues to talk in tough military clichés, I zone out for a few seconds. I think of the hand-to-hand combat drills my son learned this week. And I wonder if he has been able to control his hothead tendencies enough to be effective in a fair fight.

A friend shared a photo of my son at a birthday party eight years ago. There he was–smaller but just as fierce–holding what looked like a military rifle (it was an Airsoft party). He stood, in camo clothing with an army cap atop his head. And he is pointing to something, in what looks like clear direction to another boy. I should have known then, right? Known that he might be headed for the tip of the spear.

He left home angry, without a proper goodbye to his mother or brother. I thought being married to a hot-headed Latin man was hard, but try raising one. He is mad that I never stopped holding him to a standard. A standard that includes chores and being a decent human being with manners. For some reason, these are not the standard at his dad’s house. His father ends up looking like a swell buddy for his complete passivity in parenting, while I end up looking like Genghis Khan for having basic rules. So much for teenage logic. I am hoping he will mature into a more enlightened perspective after basic training. Only time will tell.

Whether he left thanking me for having rules or hating me for the same, I still would feel like I was in a foreign land right now. The military owns my son. If he gets hurt, I have few rights to communicate with him or intervene unless they grant them to me. I see posts on the private sites for those of us with SITs (soldiers in training). There are too many about injuries during basic training. Mainly from mothers who know their kids are injured but can’t find out more or sit by their bedside. I have a new level of respect for military parents and spouses.

I am told not to write anything too loving or mushy in my letters. Not to send any “pretty” cards with fancy stamps. I am told my son will be made to do push-ups for letters from home. I don’t send care packages because those can get a SIT unwanted attention from the drill sergeant. It’s all very foreign to me. And yet, I’m coming to understand the reasons behind some of it.

What a time for him to be a SIT. I look forward to him heading to college in January, but worry about the months in between now and then as I watch our least stable U.S. president ever continue his political sideshows. I don’t like thinking about the increased risk of military action. So I don’t—at least I don’t most days. And even though the military still owns him for some years to come, I have decided I will take it one day at a time. I’m learning.

As for my enhanced respect for soldiers and their families, well—I’ve realized we could all show more appreciation for people like my son who are willing to put their lives on the line for us. And we could appreciate those that support them. After all, it was the mother or wife of a soldier who spent far too much of her precious time helping me determine my son’s company and battalion. I needed that info so I could search the virtual sites in hopes of seeing a photo of my son during his months away. I am not ashamed to say I blubbered when I found one. The shaved head and fatigues, along with what I think was a wee bit more maturity in his face, were a welcome sight after a dry spell. And believe it or not, he was smiling. Clear-eyed and smiling. If he can do that while putting in the rigorous 16 ½ hour days basic training requires, then I guess he has made the right choice.

The photo I’ve used for today’s blog is one I had to pull out of the archives. It’s my SIT, many moons ago, in Costa Rica. His first ziplining adventure was high above the rain forest. On that trip, I watched grown men shake and come close to crying when they had to cross the largest chasm. But my newly minted 13-year-old didn’t think twice when asked if he’d like to cross it while hanging upside down. “Yes!” was his immediate answer. And as you can see, he was smiling then too–just like the smile on his face in the basic training photo.

I guess I should have known what I was in for then. He was never going to ask for a desk job.

When raising a warrior—unwittingly or not—it is best to keep adventures in ready supply. The only difference now is—someone else is overseeing his adventures.

I keep that person—and him—in my prayers. And I’d love it if you’d join me.






60 Comments Add yours

  1. theresaly520 says:

    Delightful photo! I believe you did the best you could raising him. I hope he’s doing well now for the new year!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). Happy New Year to you!

  2. Joining you in prayer 🙏🏼

  3. nimslake says:

    My family on both sides have served either the Queen or good Ole Uncle Sam. My brother is the smart, amazing and strong individual. I was so proud and yet sick when he made his decision, but he was my little brother who always acted like he was the eldest(I’m the eldest). 🙃

    He doesn’t talk about his time in war far across the sands long ago, he was stronger in that stance and hated to worry anyone including Mom.
    Mom was worried same as you, beginning/during/posteverthing; it was hard and she tried to hide it too.

    But the one thing I still do is call him on his birthday, give him wishes, hug him hard when I do see him once a year(he lives in TX). And say “Love you” at the the end of any communication.

    I’m proud of him and serving his country was the hardest part of his life. He tells me everything now is a cake walk, compared to that time. He even reminds me to be more forgiving and let go of grudges, instead asking me to live and be happy. (When did I inherit a philosophical brother??)🤔
    Yours in spirit…

    Love and Huggs in your journey-
    Nims (hanging out in FL)

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, I love everything about this story. I love the fact that I hear about your mom and want to give her a hug because I understand in a small way what she was feeling. He is just in basic training and I already worry. The fact that you hug him hard and tell him that you love him, regardless of any tough exterior. The fact that you are proud of him. And the fact that he took what he saw when he served, realizing that life is precious and we should try to be happy each day. Thank you for sharing your story. It certainly helped me today :-).

  4. The worry and anxiety you feel is something I can’t even begin to imagine. The consolation, I guess, is that he is doing what he loves, what he has always wanted to do. But still, doesn’t make it any easier. At all. Sending prayers to you and all the loved ones out there waiting anxiously for the return of their warriors. xo​

    1. candidkay says:

      You couldn’t Have said it more perfectly. Thank you so much. It is a situation I never thought I’d be in, to be honest. But as you know, life does that to us :-).

  5. Amy says:

    May your warrior and his unit be strong and ever safe. I’m joining you in prayer, my friend. Sending love~ xxx

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you 🙏🏻 ❤️. Means so much.

  6. srbottch says:

    When he looks back at Basic Trng and the trng that follows, he’ll speak highly of the good parts and realize what a great experience it is. Every young man and woman should experience it, or something similar for a brief periods in their young lives. Kudos to your son.

    1. candidkay says:

      I do agree it’s a formative experience! Hope he comes out the other end having taken in all the right stuff.

  7. I will absolutely keep your warrior in my prayers. Yes, as a mother, this time of your son being stripped of his individuality must be harrowing. Having been through a bit of the process when I went to a paramilitary college (we didn’t have to learn things like hand-to-hand combat, thank God, but I’ve had on the job weapons training), you’re so busy when you’re in it, busy just surviving, that you don’t have time for anything else. And when you’re no longer an individual, and function as a cohesive group like a well oiled machine, that’s when you shine with pride. That’s the goal. I totally understand why they discourage letters and packages from home at this time.

    Hang in there mama, you’ll make it through. You’re now part of the gang. The gang of family of our military. It might be a gang you never wanted membership to, but you’re in excellent company.

    1. candidkay says:

      It’s certainly a gang I never thought that I would belong to :-). But I have a newfound respect for them. And I do think the military is getting wiser. They did not send us my son’s address until he had already been in basic for 2 to 3 weeks. I think they knew that by the time a letter arrived after that, he would be at least a month to five weeks in. But they did encourage us to write and support our soldiers in training. Which I think is a good thing. I am sure you know so much more about this than I do

  8. George says:

    It’s always annoyed me when people use military terms in everyday life. Sports does that a lot, talking about going to battle, being warriors, etc. they have no idea and it’s insulting to those whose lives don’t include comfortable beds and friendly faces.
    Prayers for your warrior son and all those who serve this country.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, George. In seeing and hearing what other military families are experiencing, I’ve really gotten a quick education in how much I didn’t know. And how little I appreciated . . .

  9. Aunt Beulah says:

    The photograph delighted me, Kay. After reading about your oldest son in your other posts, I loved seeing him performing what many would consider a dangerous and frightening feat and looking confident, capable and happy as he does so. Your words touched my heart and made me remember my periods of waiting as my young husband went through basic training and then to Viet Nam. I, too, had to catch what glimpses I could and get through one day at a time. You will do that. We who wait do. And I’m certain he’ll return to you with a better understanding of who you are and what you taught him. I will hold him and you in my prayers.

    1. candidkay says:

      Vietnam. Oh my. That had to be tough on both of you. Especially you, with no window into how he was doing. Truth: I love this pic also. It portrays the very best side of my son–his sense of humor and adventure. It’s nice to be reminded of that little guy right now:).

  10. I will definitely join you Kristine, it must be very difficult to sort of know what he’s going through without really knowing or being able to talk to him about it. Sending both of you good wishes.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thanks, Andrea. Yes, exactly. I am reining in my mind, not allowing it to try to discern what he might be thinking/feeling. Really no way to tell until he tells me in a few months.

  11. You are one of my favorite Warrior Mothers. I hope that makes you smile. Sometimes as we Warrior Mothers zipline over the dangerous and threatening chasm of parenting our children to maturity, we can smile in the face of our own fears, and doubts, and tortured moments — like those when sharp words or dismissive gestures are exchanged to hide our true feelings at seeing a loved one in the rearview mirror. Your son is learning to believe in himself; it’s one of the most momentous steps on his path to appreciating you and all you have done for him — and always will do for him. He’s finding his way. As for you — hang on to the zipline. And don’t look down. NEVER look down.

    1. candidkay says:

      Aw, you brought tears to my eyes. Thanks so much, Kathy. Odd that someone like me–who started life as a complete ninny–has ended up with so much fire in her belly. I respect the fire in his belly–I just want it tempered with more wisdom and compassion. I WILL NOT look down. As I did not in Costa Rica–at least, not more than a few times:). I learned very quickly it was better to focus on my destination! Down the mountain we go . . .

  12. Dale says:

    One day. Who knows when. He will realise that you were doing right by him by creating rules and insisting he keep them. While he is in training, you may not realise it, but it is probably helping him to be a good student (i prefer student to soldier – because, I know you are not loving the path he has chosen, even while respecting his choice).
    As you know, my eldest considered joining the army – but being in Canada, it is a tad less scary… Neither here nor there as he has since chosen differently.
    I send you positive Mama vibes! xoxo

    1. candidkay says:

      I certainly hope so! And how is your eldest doing? Finding a path that he likes?

      1. Dale says:

        He started, just this week, his trade schooling to become an electrician (the real reason he wanted to join the army – to learn a trade). Two years ahead of him… Hard to go back to school full-time after working for two years. I am very glad he did decide and was accepted – thing he never thought would happen!

      2. candidkay says:

        I am so glad he did it and was accepted! I’m sure it was a confidence boost. I hope it’s something that lights him up (no pun intended:)). I tell my boys they need to choose something that makes the hours fly . . .

      3. Dale says:

        I so hope so too… love the pun!

  13. cristi says:

    I have three children away in three different states, I check each of their weather everyday! 🙂 #greatminds
    I am sorry he left angry. That’s a teenage rule, you know? It is easier to leave angry then it is to leave sad. I will pray for him, as I pray for my children, to stay grounded and make the world a better place. I am sure he is good hands…but for us mamas it aint easy. xo

    1. candidkay says:

      Oh, you can’t begin to know how happy it makes me that you check the weather too! I thought I was nuts😉. Thank you for the prayers! I’ll do the same for your kids, as they have their own adventures. Stay strong, mama!

  14. Cindy Frank says:

    Prayers ongoing for both you and your son, brave ones both. Hugs to you!

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Much appreciated🙏🏻

  15. markbialczak says:

    If by some fate your beloved young man is training at Fort Drum, know, Kay, that my good wishes and faith need only travel 50 or so miles north to reach him.

    1. candidkay says:

      He is not, But I know that your good wishes and faith will travel the distance! No matter how far :-). Thank you so much for the kind thoughts, Mark.

      1. markbialczak says:

        Yes, they will indeed find him wherever he is training, Kay. You and he are welcome.

  16. Colleen says:

    You are always in my prayers, but lifting a special one today for strength for both of you.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you 🙏🏻. Truly appreciated!

  17. fritzdenis says:

    It’s okay, and probably necessary, to take breaks from worry during difficult times. I sometimes use a creative project as a distraction, as a way of creating a mental vacation from stress. Endurance for me comes down to knowing when to pause and catch a breath. Prayers for you and your son.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you. I was worried in the very beginning. But a Calm has come over me since then. I really do feel he is in the best place for him right now. And he is old enough now to start to choose his dreams. That makes me excited for him, regardless of the direction they take him.

  18. cac824 says:

    He is in my thoughts every day. And you are too my friend

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you🙏🏻. Means more than you know.

  19. Su Leslie says:

    I don’t do prayer, but I do have empathy. My son is a similar age, but on a different path. I share many of your fears and send my very beat wishes to you and to him. Kia Kaha means stand strong in NZ’s indigenous language, and is meant as a kind of blessing.. I sometimes worry about using it, but I think your son would understand, and recognise that strength is many faceted. I believe you have taught him this.

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you! Empathy, good energy, good juju-will take them all:). I have seen the warrior dance that the native New Zealanders do before a match. It is amazing.

      1. Su Leslie says:

        😀 it’s become a little over-used by sports teams, but is seriously impressive and quite moving when you experience it up close in person.

  20. shamanism1 says:

    Oh I’m with you ,I don’t like that training one bit. But I hope through it all, warrior or not, he gets a teacher who reminds him it’s okay to be human, vulnerable and deserves some loving from home once in awhile! 💕💕

    1. candidkay says:

      My wish exactly. From what I can see in the photos, he seems to be in a reasonable situation. I see some of the other companies and battalions and I cringe. But I guess I really won’t know until I am allowed to see and talk to him in a few months :-).

      1. shamanism1 says:

        Yes it’s a tough time of letting go and yet, so many have survived the same training! Here’s to a speedy reunion. 🙏🏻

      2. candidkay says:

        I agree. But many different versions of “survived” from what I can see. All seem to change–it’s just how . . .

      3. shamanism1 says:

        Looking at his photo I feel there is lots of strength within him and besides, he’s got you as his Mum and that is a gift! 💚💕

      4. candidkay says:

        Thank you❤️!

  21. You got it. We think we may have one that’s gonna pick the same path. Scares me, for him. But he’s not scared at all. Of course, he’s not a parent yet either. 😃

    1. candidkay says:

      Right?’ Sometimes harder on us than them because we see all the what if’s they don’t!

      1. They just don’t have a clue. But, there’s freedom in that. Ignorance is bliss. 😃

      2. They’ll learn. 😃

  22. Masha says:

    You can be assured that all of the manners and goodness that you have instilled in him, are all there and one day he will thank you for helping him be the man he has come to be. Holding him in my prayers. ❤

    1. candidkay says:

      Thank you:). I do believe the seeds we plant remain there. They just don’t all grow at once . . .

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