Like other parents -- or anyway what I assume other parents do -- I am concerned for my children. It can't be helped. I try to balance a listening ear with an intervening necessity and be of some loving use. I ache when they ache. I ache to protect them from those aches ... and of course I can't do it. I long to build up the callouses or adult mindset that will allow me to allow them ... and I fail, over and over again.
My younger son is going through the confusing and somewhat frightening stage of realizing he will graduate from high school this year. And after that? Well, when you don't know or can't see, it's confusing and frightening and ... well ... eek!
Many, if not most, of my son's acquaintances and friends are doing the next expected thing -- gearing up for a life at college. It's an uncertain world, but it has the consolation of being what 'everybody' else is doing. My son does not want to go to college. He has had it with books. He fears the debt. He doesn't want to do what 'everybody' is doing and yet can find no sure place to put his hand. For this reason (and probably a lot of other reasons he has not expressed to me) he considers the military option. I can see where he is coming from to some extent -- a life settled and directed towards a clear mission. Close camaraderie. Excitement. Manly men. Experience. No-fucking-around certainty.
I can see his point of view and ... I quail at the prospect. I cannot possibly explain to him that it takes more balls and more courageous effort to live a quiet and peaceful and uneventful life than it does to take up arms and create lethal adventures in the Hemingway fashion ... how the hell do you know you are alive if you are not confronting death. What a high! What a high until the drug wears off.
I have expressed myself as best I can to my son. What I really wish for him is that he make choices that he will be able to live with ... not choices I will be able to live with.
And I have tried in various ways to tell him -- it's not important what others think about what you believe; it is only important what you think about what you believe... deeply important. Will you make your choices and accept the responsibility for them, win, lose or draw? Will you do your best to correct whatever mistakes you make without being asked by others? Will you find peace within both your failures and successes? What others say is not so important. What you say is vitally important.