Spiderman. Ninja. Sniper. Army soldier. Navy SEAL. When Andrew was small, he was constantly dressing up and telling me that he wanted to be these different people. I remember begging him to take off the costume-of-the-week—or month— just so I could wash it. I’d be cooking and see a flash go by as a “ninja” somersaulted past the kitchen island. When he turned 11, we had an outdoor camo birthday party. When he turned 12, he and his friends played paintball for hours.
When the video games became military or zombie-driven, I’d walk by and wonder, “Where did Mickey Mouse go?” At the time, I had already lost the battle with his dad about only “happy” characters being welcome in my home. I think it’s a guy thing. Most men I have talked to about shooting games have said, “It’s only make believe. He understands he’s not killing a real man.” I limit his playing time, but still. . . it bothers me.
Every time Andrew mentions going into the military, I smile and say, “That would be great!” I mean it. And I don’t. I fully support our soldiers and our military. I understand that our freedom is not free, and there is a reason why they must fight. I just don’t want my son to pay that price. I know it’s selfish, but I can’t help it. He’s my baby. How gut wrenching it must be for all parents who watch their sons or daughters leave for boot camp or report for duty. What a mix of emotions it must be—tremendous pride mixed with heartache.
We recently saw American Sniper, a movie that highlights the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Afterward, Andrew couldn’t stop talking about the differences and similarities between the book and the movie. He described details of the guns and used terms I did not understand. Most of the time, I admit I wasn’t really listening. Instead, I was watching his big, blue eyes shining with excitement as he talked about SEAL training. At one point he asked, “What do you think, Mom? Aren’t you excited for me to do it?” And then a pause before he said, “You don’t want me to, do you? Too bad, because I can’t wait.”
I just laughed and said, “I’ll be very proud of you, no matter what you do.”
He got in the car, smiled, and said, “I knew it. You don’t want me to. But I am going to, and it’s going to be awesome.”
No. What would be awesome would be to watch him running down the street in his Spiderman costume once again. It would be awesome if he was still playing sniper in the yard with all of the neighborhood boys, wielding Nerf guns, and shooting foam bullets. It would be awesome to stand at the kitchen window and watch a backyard army of eight-year-olds playing capture the flag.
I’d love just one more day to spend with the little boy whose military maneuvers were only make believe. Instead, I am having a conversation with a young man who is old enough to actually start making plans to enlist.
Just one more day. That would be awesome.