Veteran’s Day rolled around last week and incited a variety of emotions. Was anyone else’s Facebook news feed teaming with complaints about not having the day off? Hmm . . . For most of us, Veteran’s Day gave a moment of pause to reflect upon people whom we love, admire and respect for committing and sometimes sacrificing themselves for our country and for us.
A girlfriend of mine, S, reflected on a co-worker and friend and posed this question: How would you feel, as the mama, if your little bundle grew up and decided to serve in the armed forces?
S’s idea struck me up-close-and-personal for so many reasons—as a Mamaleh, as an American and as an Israeli.
As an American I’m supportive and in awe of people who are in the forces, but cut-and-dry that choice is not for me. As an Israeli (I have duel citizenship) it’s a different story. The army is compulsory in Israel. Fresh out of high school kids enlist, train and go. It is what it is. The thought of handing every high school graduate you know training and a gun is enough to give anyone some pause. But if it’s EVERYONE’S known path, the element of unknown fear (as well as doubt or choice) are minimized.
I was detained at an Israeli airport once as guards checked to make sure that I had the proper paperwork to go back to the States and not just turn right around and join the Israeli army. No doubt about it, I had no desire to stay. In reality, I was terrified (of staying. Not of the cute guards in uniform, for the record).
While it does for some, the “it is what it is” attitude about the army did not stay with me or my family once we lived in America. If my parents and I had stayed in Israel I would have been a soldier. For those of you who know me well, there’s some pause for ya’!
Now there’s nothing cut and dry about this topic as a Mamaleh. I’ll be honest with you, I had a hard time sending the girls off to preschool and Kindergarten this year. School drop-off leaves me teary eyed daily, I’m not a fan of drop-off play dates and I, at best, check out and, at worst, glare at people who get too close to my kids at the park. It’s safe to say that I would have a really, really hard time if my kids enlisted in well, anything. There would be tears people. Lots of them.
But after the tears and maybe some tantrums and perhaps Jason stepping in to smooth things over. Yes, after all of that, then what? As the Mamaleh, how do you respect and honor a brave choice for others but not in your own child? How do you let go and support your own child in such a huge life changing decision? Is a happy medium possible?
I don’t have the words to describe how devastated I would be if any of my kids made this choice. I want to wrap them all up in bubble wrap and keep them safely at home. Forever. Most of me wants to foster a “that’s not a choice” mentality at our house. We do it with smoking. And lying. And moving far away from your parents. Why not with the army?
Well, probably because of the part of me that’s ashamed to feel this way. Soldiers are brave and selfless. Committed and driven. These are all admirable traits that I want my kids to have. Also, what kind of a Mamaleh would I be to “delete a path choice” for my kids because of my own fear of losing them? Pause. Lots and lots of pause.
For now, this is not a discussion topic at our house. When our kids are older and they start making life choices independent of our family, I’ll need a lot of restraint to listen and not judge. I want them to be true to themselves, but I’m holding onto the bubble wrap, people, just in case!