color: SOME SOLDIER'S MOM: It's Not About You

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

It's Not About You

I read this website PostSecret where people send in their deepest (and sometimes darkest) secrets on post cards. (Doc turned me on to the site a few years ago.) The site has spawned a number of books... and to tell the truth, I am sometimes shocked! by the secrets people send in -- to the point that every once in a while I wonder whether people are making things up just to see if they can get on the website.

This week's secrets include the one shown above. I wonder if it's the same Mom I wrote to here? If not, I'd like to address this Mom here:

Dear Madam,
Makes you feel like a failure as a mother?? Oh give me a break lady! Did you raise him/her to live YOUR dream or did you raise your child to live HIS/HERS??


So, let me enlighten you:

IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU.

It's about your Marine... your child. You should celebrate that you did something really right... that your child has embraced a world of hard work, discipline, selflessness and, yes, danger. Your son or daughter has chosen to support an ideal that is so much bigger than themselves that some people (and you might be one) cannot begin to comprehend its magnitude. Perhaps it bothers you that you are no longer numero uno in his/her life -- that they didn't do what you had planned for them... or you don't "support the war"... or perhaps you just simply do not understand The Corps... or the whole concept of military service? But again, it's not about you.

I don't know if you have yet had the opportunity to attend your Marine's graduation or his/her promotion (or commissioning) ceremony. If you haven't, then you may be in for the surprise of your life when you experience and share the extreme pride in this Marine's accomplishments... and you simply will not believe the change that surrounds and lives in him/her. If you are debating whether to attend the ceremony, I urge you -- STRONGLY -- to GO for there are few moments in your life that will be more meaningful or rewarding -- for you and for your son or daughter. Not only will it show your child that you support his/her decision -- putting their dreams before yours -- but it will also mark your promotion ceremony and graduation into the ranks of the elite band of military parents... those like me and you who did not sign but also serve.

If you are not or cannot be proud of your Marine's accomplishments, know that I AM... and I know a whole lot of other people who are as well.


I tell you now what I told Mary-Jo and what I tell every mom, dad, grandparent, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, sibling, cousin, friend who writes to me about their loved one's service: The burden of having a loved one at war is without a doubt one of the heaviest burdens a mother or any family member can bear... but we -- the entire military family -- will be here with you and for you... to help you through the most amazing (and at times frightful) journey of their life and yours!!

P.S. If it just has to be about you... you are one of the few people in the world who can say, "I raised a Marine!" Believe me, most people will think very highly of you... and you will have to get used to people saying, "You must be very proud! Thank your [son] [daughter] for their service... and thank you for yours."

Welcome Andrew Sullivan/theAtlantic.com readers!

14 Comments:

At 10/31/2007 7:09 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

You go girl!! Couldn't have said it better!!
Thanks for saying what so many of us think!

 
At 10/31/2007 8:33 AM , Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 10/31/2007 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

 
At 10/31/2007 12:31 PM , Blogger ragingmom said...

I know my ex-husband had those very thoughts when our boys joined. He still doesn't get it, but at least has the sense to act like he is proud of them.

SSM, Monday is D-Day again for us, and with your permission I'd like to excerpt part of Thoughts of a Soldier's Mom in a Time of War. (with links, of course)I've never been able to say it as well as you did.

 
At 10/31/2007 1:16 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

>> "Did you raise him/her to live YOUR dream or did you raise your child to live HIS/HERS??"

I think this probably misses the point. Perhaps it's not about him/her living the mother's dreams but rather her values.

A parent who doesn't "support the war" (not sure why the scare quotes here) would legitimately be appalled at her child choosing to engage in it. It's possible that the same mother might feel like a failure if the child evaded military service in a time of great national peril.

Without reference to current conflicts, I would certainly take a dim view of any person who knowingly volunteered to fight in a war that I felt was illegal, immoral, or clearly against our national interest. And I would probably question my own success in raising such a person. Yet I am not a pacifist.

A more charitable take on the mother's confession is that she doesn't want her child killing or dying in what she sees as an unjust cause. She feels like she failed to impart that level of discernment to her child, which was indeed her job.

--Regina D.

 
At 10/31/2007 1:26 PM , Blogger Some Soldier's Mom said...

Regina, Perhaps. But she didn't say that she felt that she had failed to impart her values, but that she had failed as a mother. She also references her child's "talent" in a broader sense.

I used quotes around the phrase "support the war" because it was meant to indicate that perhaps she did not agree with the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan and it was the source of her sense of failure that her child did.

However, what cannot be dismissed is the utter disappointment she expresses in her child's choice and the complete lack of pride in him/her.

 
At 10/31/2007 2:23 PM , Blogger Alice AN said...

Every man must make the call what he'll die for and when - for the time being I am glad it's your son; and like everyone else, I thank you. We are more than willing to live our lives in peace, comfort and affluence, and to shower you with all the thanks there is..

When we will be at an existential crisis - then people will volunteerpeople. We are grateful they are there because we don't have to be.

I completely agree with Regina D, in her assesment. I can understand the feeling of inadequacy and dissapointment only because of the current conflict.

My point of conflict with the mother in question, and also where I differ from Regina D; is this notion that one 'imparts discernment'.

"We don't receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us".Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

 
At 10/31/2007 2:23 PM , Blogger Stacy said...

WAy to go SSM. I could not have worded this any better.

 
At 10/31/2007 2:31 PM , Anonymous Honored to serve with the kid you're disappointed in said...

Very well said -

Just to look at another angle, though - I remember a conversation between two colleagues of mine 1stLts at the time, and our CO, a major. Both Lts were prior enlisted. One of them, who had a 2 year old son, said that if his son ever joined the Corps (perhaps he said if his son ever enlisted, I can't recall), he would feel like a failure as a father. The other lieutenant, who didn't have any kids yet, agreed. The major - never enlisted, belonged to MCJROTC in high school - was amazed, if not appalled, and said he'd be incredibly proud if his son joined the Marine Corps. The major, I am pretty sure, was visualizing his son doing the officer thing, but I don't think he'd actually be less proud if his son enlisted. Both lieutenants were proud to be Marines; and I seriously doubt that either of them would be other than bursting their buttons to see a child of theirs cross the parade deck at PI or San Diego - or pin on butter bars at Quantico -- when it actually happened. But as the father of a young child, or as a potential father - they both basically had the old school sense of wanting their son to have more advantages than they had. I think both enlisted because they couldn't afford college, and while they were proud to serve, and to come back as officers after getting their college education, they didn't want their kids to come up the hard way.

That said, once the child has made possibly his first adult decision, and signed the papers, you're exactly right. It's time to put parental ambitions aside, and be proud that they have the courage to choose their own path - and to choose one that's not easy.

 
At 11/01/2007 9:56 PM , Blogger Sean from DocintheBox said...

I thought of you SSM when I saw the post too. I do know some parents out there who are angry that their child has gone off into the military and know mulitple Marines and Sailors who have joined to get away from their parents. Joining as a statement and most of them end up being better people then they were. It's sometimes hard to believe that their child is now an adult and let go.

 
At 11/03/2007 8:50 AM , Anonymous bronda said...

What a great title!!! That is hard sometimes as a parent to remember that what our children chose to do is "NOT ABOUT US". Hopefully all the parents out there that are upset or disappointed in their son or daughter for joining the service to their country, will keep in the back of their mind that "THIS IS WHAT THEY WANT AND NEED TO DO" for themselves.
I as a parent that did not grow up with a military back ground (my dad was Navy before I was even a thought) was scared the whole time my son was gone. I didn't have a clue "at all". But you know we do have to find the strength to let go and let them grow. An maybe try to ask yourself this question? Deep down did your mom and dad agree with everything you chose to do in life. Mine didn't. An look I have raised a son to go on, be strong, and serve his country. I am so "VERY PROUD" of every man, woman, and family that is serving their country. Thanks from the bottom of my heart!

 
At 11/04/2007 8:32 AM , Blogger Call Me Grandma said...

Hi SSM: Dan and Kat got their own house. Yeah!
Hey, your grandbaby will be here before you know it.
I'm hoping all goes well for Noah and his little crew.
I guess we can call what we are going through now...'life after the military and war'.
Thank God for family, what a nice thing to have!

 
At 11/13/2007 8:31 AM , Blogger Gina.Gaudio-Graves said...

What a fantastic post! So often our parents forget that at some point, they must allow us to live our own lives. And, once we do that, we often make decisions for reasons that have nothing to do with them.

Many parents seem to think that even the mere act of making a decision without taking them into consideration is somehow disrespectful of them as parents. No matter what age we are at.

It surprises me that even when those decisions are honorable, noble, or helpful to others, that this same thing happens. If it is not the same decision that the parent would make, then the adult child is somehow letting the parent down and/or being disrespectful.

As adult children, we can often be smothered be this kind of "love" from a parent. In fact, this kind of "love" infuses so much negativity in our lives that it can actuall impede our success and even have ill health affects on us.

Our only choice is to remove that negativity from our lives completely -- even at the risk of no longer having contact with thte parent. It's sad that when the child most deserves the support of the parent, that the family is often torn apart. Not by the child necessarily -- but as a result of the parent's refusal to let the child stand on his own two feet.

I have felt this kind of "love" first hand from my own mom. While she is a wonderfulu woman, someone who takes an active role in her community and her church, and someone who is looked up to by many, her views on "parental respect" are so negative that they border on being disrespectful of the child.

Although I am 43 years old, I am expected to ask permission even on career moves or it is disrespecting her as a parent. Over the years, this negativity has even affected my health. Not that it made me sick. But, once I was sick, it made me sicker and prevented my recovery.

The real problem, I realized only after the doctors gave me 12 to 18 months to live. The real problem wasn't my mother's actions. It was my allowing the negativity in my life in the first place.

Once I was able to remove that and all other negativity in my life, I was able to completely recover. But, that meant that I could no longer have my mom in my life at all.

The point I am trying to make is that adult childrern cannot control their parents actions any more than the parent can control the adult child's. The adult child must not let the parent guilt them into making or changing a decision that the adult child made for reasons having nothing to do with the parent. And, even if it means complete separation from the parent, the adult child must live the life that is right for them.

It is still sad, though, that this will most certainly tear the family apart. The adult child will be left feeling that they are to blame, and the parent will be there pointing the finger. Yet neither will see that it is the parent pushing the child out, and not the child leaving of choice.

Hopefully the good the adult child is doing in the world will make up for the loss of one more family unit in our society.

 
At 11/18/2007 2:08 PM , Anonymous Betsy said...

For the mother who feels like a failure -- Would you feel like a success if your son followed your dream the rest of his life instead of his dream?

 
At 1/07/2008 4:32 AM , OpenID defendusa said...

SSM,
I tell that to people, too. It is NOT about them!! I get so sick of the Cindy Sheehan mentality, I could puke. When your child makes the choice to serve, it IS their will. And, I also agree, that as a mother, I will consider that I raised them to do what is right for them, not me. Is it hard to suck it up an worry endlessly? Absolutely. But I know people who disown their children because they choose to serve. I know I am a day late and a dollar short. Just my two. PS...Love your perpective on just about everythting!

 

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