Over the summer my oldest son, Artie, announced to the family that he planned to join the Navy. It was a shock to me because I knew my artistic son wanted to attend art school and eventually design automobiles. I cried and told him no matter what he chose to do I was behind him 100%. We had many discussions about military life, careers, why he chose the Navy.
My very first concern for Artie was how he could truly desire a life in the military because he’s such a mild-mannered, extremely warm, gentle young man. In high school he was encouraged to join the football team because he’s a big guy, but he had no desire to join, fearing he might hurt someone. So my mother’s heart wondered how a military career would suit my son, but I came to understand that with my boy’s gentle and loving heart came a deep desire to honor and serve his country. I see him as my first-born baby boy, but he’s a man wanting to do what comes naturally to men: protect.
Eventually I grew accustomed to the idea as Artie learned more and shared openly with us about his desire to pursue a career as a mechanic in the Navy. When it was time to get serious with the recruiter we discovered that Artie wasn’t currently eligible to enlist because he’d been diagnosed with asthma as a child. In order to join he had to see a specialist and have testing done to make sure he no longer has asthma. His lack of medical insurance has made it a hindrance to join for now, but he’s working to slim down a bit and become more physically fit, which is still a very positive step in the direction he’s chosen. I know he’ll get there when he’s meant to.
Yesterday Vader came to me after school wringing his hands and telling me he needed to talk to me. I knew it was serious and I immediately felt a sense of dread from the vibes Vader was throwing out. He began to tell me how he’s wanted to join the Marines since he was in ninth grade, but when he saw how difficult it was for me when Artie announced his plans for the Navy, he felt that he couldn’t tell me what he wanted to do with his life. I cried and had a small panic attack because I immediately envisioned my son on the front lines and I couldn’t even breathe. He asked for permission to stay after tutoring this week to talk in-depth with the recruiter at his high school. I asked him to give me some time to process that because I was due elsewhere for a meeting.
I sent texts to my brother, Tate, my daughter, Melody, and my Wonder Twin. My brother was behind Vader from word one, encouraging me that it would be very good for my son and would help him with his anger problems. Melody and I talked back and forth and she, too, suggested that this might be the best thing for him. My Wonder Twin has a son who serves and she was very positive, telling me not to panic, he had a long road to walk and lots of testing to pass.
After the meeting I went home and sat down with Vader. I told him that I wanted him to hear what I’d told all of my kids when they talked to me about major life decisions: find your passion, plan your future, then run towards that future with arms wide open and DON’T. LOOK. BACK. Then I talked to him about two of my concerns. All of his life Vader was groomed by his father for military life — mostly, I believe, because it’s what Rail wanted but wasn’t able to pursue due to a birth defect. I urged him to think carefully about this choice, and that he needs to enlist if it’s what he wants, not because it’s what he knows his father wanted for him. My second concern was that he was choosing military because he didn’t know what else he wanted to do with his life. He promised me he would think carefully about my concerns, but that becoming a Marine was his passion.
I’m worried about the choices Vader will make in the next few months. He’s the child who is fueled by anger and rage and makes decisions based on those feelings. I know there isn’t much I can do except be available to Vader if he wants advice. What it comes down to for me is trusting God to help my son navigate these monumental decisions. I choose to actively place my faith in God — to believe that He will always walk with Vader and provide for him, even if my boy never chooses to follow Him. I don’t say this lightly — I still feel off-balance, panicked, and fearful, but I do know that the more I pray and believe God’s got Vader’s life in His hands and wants the very best for him — even more so than his own mother — those feelings will subside and Vader’s future will sit well with me.
Thank you for joining me today for my very late entry in the A to Z September Challenge!