A little more than a week ago, my son came home from his second deployment. He’s been posting quick videos about his acclimation to life in the states. They’re cute. The first one he started his car that had been parked for months. Pictures of meals he cooked followed. Then came the pictures of him messing up his house with his gear and assurances to have it cleaned in a couple of days.
This deployment and return to life in the states were far different than his first.
On his first deployment, I wasn’t allowed to know where he was stationed. Communication was sparse during and after the deployment. Every once in a while, I’d receive a cryptic message. “You’re going to read about something in the news. Just know I’m okay.”
Like that would make a mother feel good. I’d pore over the news. There would be an article here or there, but nothing pointed to my son thinking he needed to send the message.
Then he came home.
Moms, you know that feeling that hits in the back corner of your heart when your child is trying to hide something from you. The one that tells you to let time pass because the secret will rise to the surface. I had that feeling.
One day, while he was on a visit to the farm, I asked for help washing the dishes. Holy mother of all that is good, I was in for a surprise. Long story short, my son had a retinue of tests to determine whether or not he could trust me. The funny thing is he had no idea he was doing it.
There were little quizzes along the way. Each time, I kept my cool and rose to the challenge. But with every affirmation of his value, he increased the stakes until… he outright challenged my mama love when I asked for help washing the dishes. I cannot recall the exact words. The angry tone challenging me to hate him temporarily threw me for a loop. Did he think I’d fail that one?
My son was in for a greater surprise.
I didn’t hate him. The request for help was a means of asking for his companionship. He was about to learn that my values stemmed deeper and would therefore uproot his lie he told himself. Being in the same room doing something together was all that mattered to me. He gave me the side-eye and joined me in the kitchen.
I passed the test.
Within minutes, another attempt at an argument ensued. This, in itself, was a test. I don’t argue. The only option my son had was to share his truth. The laughter was gone from his eyes, and the expectation of judgment pierced my heart. He told me what had happened on his deployment. I had seen the events in the news. Because of my ignorance of his whereabouts, I hadn’t equated him with the outcome.
I will tell you this. My heart ached. There was no way I could have shielded him. However, my response could salve his wounds.
I apologized. For what he had seen, all that had gone against his expectations, and for how it all made him feel. Then I told him that despite all that he shared, I still loved and respected him.
Respect was the key to his healing. Our children want, need, and cherish our love. Love is the foundation. The addition of respect validated the sincerity of my love.
Readers, we passed the tests. We couldn’t erase the past. That was naive and would have invalidated his intent and his service for our country. His experiences will be with him for the rest of his life. What we could do was take life one day at a time, and we have. And, when he least expects it, I send him notes reminding him how proud I am of the person he has become.
The takeaways from this vague story: It is easy to love someone when things are going well. Showing love when someone expects anything but is when it really shines.
We all have had this test at one point in time or another. The person thought we would walk away, and we stuck around.
After that pivotal discussion with my son, my approach to Veteran’s Day or Armistice Day deepened. Yes, I thank veterans for their service. My true hope…I hope they can see in my smile or my tone of voice that despite the outcome of their personal story, they are very much respected.
And so I close this message with a request. Our world is limping along. Everybody is struggling. Prepare for the tests. They need to hear more about love.
In that vein, I close this note reminding you, dear friend, that I am so glad for the chance to be a part of your world. Have a great week.