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.