Yesterday I asked my 5-year-old son to promise me that when he grows up, he will not go to war.
He looked at me with his big brown eyes and said , “I pwomise, Mommy. I won’t go to war.”
I come from a long line of pacifist men, so I’m hoping his word is good. It’s one of the scariest things about having a son.
My mom was sitting nearby and she said, “And Amelia. Make Amelia promise.” And even though I’m a feminist to the core, I really have zero fears about my daughter enlisting.
This is why: I play a game to get Josh to eat his vegetables, where the broccoli is held with one hand and labeled a kitten, and the other hand is the monster. The monster chases the kitten into my son’s mouth, and his mouth is the refuge. He is distracted with fun so he will eat his veggies. But this silly game is upsetting to my 8-year-old daughter, because she feels sorry for the kitten and the monster scares her. She has to leave the dinner table. That child is not going to enlist. Not even in a parallel universe.
But Josh loves to make sticks into guns, and shoot his bow and arrow at the cat. When he was 3 years old, he was poking a snail with a stick and I scolded, “Don’t do that. It hurts the snail.”
He asked, “Can I at least pee on it?”
He was born aggressive, and with a loving family it will turn into assertiveness and drive. But I am scared that when he’s 18 and his prefrontal lobes aren’t developed and consequences are abstractions and death is a myth and being a hero is a worthy goal, he could just amble on down to the armed forces center on a bright sunny day and sign his life away. Nooooooooooooo.
Josh, promise me. Promise me. No war.
“I pwomise, Mommy.”
Parenting with heart,
Jennifer Olden, LMFT