Small Surprises in Growing Up

It is always the little things that surprise me as my kids are growing up. Or maybe they are big things, but the key is the surprise. In stories these are the surprising yet inevitable plot moments where the audience first gasps and then says “of course, how could it be any other way?” This time it was an email.

“Link needs to register for selective services before his eighteenth birthday.”

I blinked at the email, in a sort of shocked pause. My boy is too young to have to register for the draft. Except he isn’t. Not anymore. It is only about two weeks until he is a legal adult and many of the rules change. One of them is filling out a form that registers him as a young male eligible for the draft should our country have a major military conflict and need more soldiers than it currently has enlisted.

No one has been conscripted or drafted into the United States Military since 1973, the year I was born. There hasn’t been a draft in my lifetime. The odds that my son will be called upon to fight my country’s battles are negligible. Our country has enough strong and good volunteers who fill those roles. But staring at that email, I had a moment of fear. For a moment war loomed and I felt connected to generations of mothers before me who sent off their sons, and to mothers now, who still do because their sons and daughters volunteer. My son is not a warrior. He doesn’t even like to play violent or bloody video games. And if he struggled and nearly broke when faced with the challenges of high school, I shudder to think what boot camp would do to him. I spent a long moment picturing what going to battle could do to him physically and mentally.

After a moment, the shadow of fear passed. I filled out the form to register him. This is one of the responsibilities of being a citizen, along with jury duty, and paying taxes. Yet when I hope and pray for peace in the world, there is just a slight bit more fervor in my prayers. I know that my family and I are very fortunate in the peaceful existence we’ve lived. It is good for me to face the fact that not everyone gets to choose a peaceful life.