*Disclaimer: The words below are a bit rambling. But writing is how I process, and so, once again, I’m throwing words onto virtual paper to sort out the myriad of thoughts in my brain after this weekend here in Chicago. Also, pics from this weekend are in the slider above, you can click through them to see pics from both graduation and my adventures in Downtown Chicago.
Parenting is such an odd thing.
You give birth to this tiny human who is completely dependent upon you. They spit up, they poop, they cry and cry and cry. They thrill you with their first steps, and exhaust you with their “terrible two’s” (or 3’s, or 4’s, or 13’s, or 17’s). There is no manual, no reboot, no do-overs. As a parent, you get one shot and raising this child that has been entrusted to you (because, they aren’t really ours, are they?).
And, it is scary.
We pray. We plead with God to protect them, to be real to them, to keep both their minds and their souls well and safe. We beg God to influence their decisions, to help them make wise choices. To keep them from doing the ridiculously foolish things.
And then, we hold our breath. And watch.
As a single mom, I think some of this is compounded or intensified by being out-numbered (if you have more than one child–or, maybe even if you have one child). There is no one to tag-team with; no one to bounce ideas off of, or to get another opinion from when making decisions for and about your child. There’s no one to take over when you just can’t parent another minute. There’s no one to be afraid with, no one to be worried with, no one to rejoice with, no one to celebrate with. There’s no one to pull the good cop/bad cop off with–you have to be both good cop and bad cop. It’s exhausting.
There’s no one to go to Boot Camp graduation with.
It’s just you. It’s a strange place to be in.
Yesterday, my oldest boy graduated from Navy Boot Camp.
It was such an amazing, incredible experience. I loved everything about it. (With the exception of the parent meet and greet, which I left pretty quickly. I have better things to do than watch 200+ strangers–fellow parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles and friends of recruits–drunkenly dance to “You’re in the Navy” and practically knock each other over to bid on raffle baskets full of items they probably don’t need.) I loved watching all the graduate families at my hotel decorate their doors and sit around the lobby together. I loved the military band playing Souza marches during graduation, I loved the sense of anticipation before the cargo doors opened and the Divisions marched in, I absolutely loved hearing the divisions shout the Sailor’s Creed and sing (shout) Anchor’s Aweigh. I loved watching the military dads (I’m sure there were moms as well, though none seated around me) joining their sons/daughters and standing to shout the Creed and sing Anchor’s Aweigh. And, I loved hearing the M.C. call out “Liberty” and watching the newest U.S. Sailors break ranks and run for their families sitting in the stands.
Loved it all.
But, most of all, more than all of the pomp and circumstances, I marveled at the child–now a man–that I spent the day with. And loved every minute.
He stood taller. He spoke confidently. He spoke non-stop–full of stories from the past 8 weeks. He even called surviving the gas chamber “fun”. He was so proud to give me his Boot Camp picture and the frame he bought me. He told me all about his upcoming life–what he thinks “A” school will be like, his hopes of being stationed in Japan, how he wants to save enough money to fly me there if he does.
It was tremendous.
The past 8 weeks have changed my boy. He’s still who he is…goofy, laid back, takes everything in stride, works hard to make everyone happy around him. But, there is something different. Besides the new muscles and the huge weight loss and the fact that, after his shower, he folded his towels, and the incessant checking of his watch to make sure he’s not late.
He walks differently. He holds himself differently. He demonstrated a new level of respect for everyone around him—I noticed it especially with strangers.
And, he thanked me. Not for anything in particular. Just in general. There were no tears shed this weekend, but there was a bit of a catch in my breath when he spoke those words.
I almost wish he hadn’t thanked me. Don’t get me wrong; I’m glad that he did, because I want him to continue to grow to be the kind of man that is grateful–deeply grateful–to God and to others. I want to cultivate and encourage that in him.
But it was a bit hard to hear those words. I have not parented well—not when I observe how others parent so well, so naturally. There is much grief in that. I have failed my crew time and time again. I do fail them, much.
However, there is also tremendous gratitude to God, for His mercy and grace even in my immense failures. My crew deserves better then what they have in me; and yet He somehow mixes grace and mercy with my ineptness and is helping me raise these four incredible people. People that I not only love deeply (there was a time that I struggled with that, as ashamed as I am to admit it), but also like and respect greatly.
I am so very proud. Of all four of my crew.
And, this is truth, because, well, I just know that it is, because I live it (and pray it, as I pray for my crew) every single day: 3 John 1:4 : I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
Random Notes on Chicago
I’ve not been here in years. Here are my thoughts:
Illinois in General
Gosh, I had forgotten how not pretty Illinois is. It really isn’t. I kind of remember parts of Springfield, IL, being pretty, but I know south of Springfield is not, and neither is Chicago. Lake Michigan is, at best, interesting. But that’s it.
Our United States Navy
It amazes me that they graduate 100’s of sailors each and every Friday. Surely, though, they must have weeks that they don’t–like Christmas or Thanksgiving? I don’t know, but it is mind-boggling. It was incredibly cool to be on-base and walk around a bit and hear my boy tell me about all the different buildings. It was also cool that everywhere we went, my son was stopped and asked if he was a new graduate, and told congratulations (he had to remain in uniform the entire time we were together). While here, the threat level to the nation’s military was bumped up for some reason (I’ve not investigated to see why), and this whole area went on lock-down. For example, when I got back to my hotel (Navy Lodge) tonight, the garbage cans outside have been taped up to prevent anyone from putting anything in them, like explosive devices. I have a much deeper appreciation for those who defend our country after this weekend.
Chicago Deep Dish Pizza:
Yes. A thousand times. Giodorno’s.
It’s like Ben and Jerry’s except with scoops of cheesecake. Enough said.
I had no idea how long I’d have with my boy before he had to fly to Pensacola for school, so I made my reservations through tomorrow. I joined Tim at O’Hare airport early this morning and waited with him at his gate (hello, military family status. That’s cool.) until he and his shipmates boarded at 11:00am. On a whim, I decided to explore downtown Chicago. I did some quick research and figured out how to take the “L” train/Subway system to downtown. Once there, I walked. All over. I saw:
It’s big. It’s shiny. People like to take selfies of it. The official name makes it sound mystical–“Cloud Gate”. It’s not. Mystical, that is. It’s big. It’s shiny. That is all.
Houses the Bean (Cloud Gate) but also much more, like the most amazing playground I have ever seen. And a very odd duck fountain with digital faces that have eyes that blink and whose mouths pour out water on occasion. Which I found a little yucky, actually. But, still. Interesting.
Once I finally found this, it was very cool. Second Tallest building in the world. Super fast elevator to the top, where it is actually quite skinny, which was fascinating. But the whole reason I went was so I could step out onto the 3 layers of 1/2 inch think glass so I could look straight down 1,353 feet unto the street below me. I think it was last year that the protective coating on the glass cracked one day while someone was sitting in “the box”? Looonnnngg way down.
On Being Lost:
My phone died about 1/2 way through the day, so I had no way to navigate. I am, and remain, hopelessly directionally challenged, if today is any indication. I could not, for the life of me, find that “L” train platform to return to O’Hare. And goodness, the Windy City lived up to its name–I was freezing cold and still am. I only had a t-shirt on and capris on–no jacket, and I ended up walking a total of 7.03 miles and 16,310 steps, according to FitBit–the vast majority of which was me wandering around looking for the blasted Bean, Tower and the train. Sheesh. I finally found a Barnes & Noble, went inside, and looked at a map. Which didn’t help a great deal, actually.
On Mother’s Day:
I generally don’t give too much thought to Mother’s Day. I consider it to be a pretty useless holiday; just one more way for card companies (and restaurants) to make more money. I have no expectations of being “honored” on Mother’s day–I think that’s kind of silly, actually. And definitely not deserved. However, I am a bit more aware than usual this “Mother’s Day” (and have been for a couple of weeks) of the story of Timothy (from the Bible) and his mother Lois, and his grandmother, Eunice. Scratch that, I think those names are mixed up. Anyway, the point is this……my faith is so often wavering, so often not solid. I want so much more than my shaky faith for my crew. I want their faith to be solid; unwavering. Their faith is theirs, as it should be, but I pray much that God will grant them assured faith. In addition to that, though, I deeply desire for them to see, in me, at least a fraction of what Paul saw in Eunice, and Lois, and Timothy–a sincere faith, even if it is shaky at times.
Earnest faith, if nothing else.
I thank God whom I serve, as did my ancestors, with a clear conscience, as I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day. 4 As I remember your tears, I long to see you, that I may be filled with joy. 5 I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well. 6 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:3-7