Friday, October 23, 2015

I'll Tell You the Truth About Sending off a Missionary

Sam is going on a mission to Birmingham, England in a few days.

He's my first missionary. I didn't go on a mission and no one in my family went—so it's a pretty new experience. It's quite wonderful and I am proud of him. There is an element of bittersweetness to this. When he gets home he'll be all grown up. Sending him on a mission marks the end of an era with him. It's a little sad, but mostly I look forward to being a mom to young-adult-Sam. Of course I am 100% committed to the gospel and I think that serving a mission is the best choice Sam could make right now. I never waiver on that in the least. I believe in missionary work. I believe in service. I believe in Sam.

But it's also quite gut-wrenching and difficult in some ways. If you have little boys who may be mission-bound some day and the thought of that makes you cry, here's my advice: Don't think about it. Try not to think about it. Trying to raise them with the thought of them one day leaving constantly at the forefront of your mind is too much pressure and loads every moment with an unbearable weight of inevitability that is too much to bear. 

Even now with only a few days left before Sam leaves, I try not to think about it because if I think about these numbered days I will ruin these last few days and make them weird. Probably I shouldn't even be writing this. 

I have daughters, too, who plan to go on missions. I feel like what I am saying might be son-specific, even though it probably feels the same to send a son or a daughter on a mission, because there is a gravity to the responsibility for boys to serve whereas girls have a bit more wiggle room to opt-in or opt-out of a mission. 

Here's what's hard about it.

First of all, there's a lot to do. There's paperwork, visas, medical and dental appointments and records, documents, TB tests—all sorts of stuff to help with as missionaries gets their papers in and receive their mission calls. It's pretty busy. There is a lot of shopping to do as well, but to me this is not hard. The shopping is really fun and exciting—I have loved that part of getting ready. Although you do worry about money a little. We'll probably spend around $1500 in upfront costs. Having all this stuff to do before they leave can be stressful. 

The other thing that's hard about it—and this is really the thing you most expect—is worrying about sending your son away for 2 years. They're leaving, and they are teenagers who still need help sometimes. They are going somewhere new and possibly far away. You'll have very little contact with them and they will meet strangers every day who might not like them or treat them nicely. You know they are in for some hard work, which will be good for them, but you're still the mom and they're still the baby you used to worry about every little thing for. It doesn't feel any different than that first night home from the hospital, the first day of school, or the first sleep-away camp they go to. Even though he's older and competent and prepared, it feels the same. There is no difference.

Sam's mission president wrote a letter to him. And that really was the first mission-related correspondence I was able to look at without crying (and I'm not a crier). It's reassuring to think that President and Sister Leppard will be in charge of him now. My son is their stewardship and I take some comfort in that. 

Those are the parts I expected to feel but there's another part, too. It feels like—and I want to be careful not to overstate this—what Joseph Smith described feeling in the Sacred Grove before Heavenly Father and Jesus show up. Sometimes (not all the time) I feel ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction. It's sad. I cry. It doesn't feel good. It could just be me being a weirdo, but other moms (and Maggie) admit to feeling the same way.

I'm not saying it's Satan trying to suck out the optimism and joy I should (and do) feel about Sam going on a mission but I'm not saying it isn't.  I have wondered if the excruciating pain parents are feeling about their children leaving for missions has anything to do with the all-in, attachment, helicopter parenting we've been doing for the last 20 years. (Thanks A LOT Dr. Sears.) I don't know.

I think, maybe, the reason for the pain is that for the first time ever my core beliefs feel like they are at odds with each other.

I believe in the gospel and that Sam should serve a mission with every fiber of my being.
I believe in keeping my kids close and taking care of them with every fiber being of my being.
My being fibers are being split.

I think that's what I'm feeling. It doesn't feel good but I do think it will get better and I'm really into the idea of receiving a WHOLE SLEW of blessings like everyone always talk about.

I'll let you know how it goes.





29 comments:

  1. I love when you express yourself, Kacy. I always, always love it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is exactly what I would write if I had your talent!! Finally someone who gets how this whole process has been for me!! Thanks for sharing, I'm going to be following along!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. "My being fibers are being split." -very descriptive - I can imagine how this might feel. I hope the best for you and your son and your family. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank YOU for reading and commenting!

      Delete
  4. You're a genius! My being fibers were split but they are definitely finding their way back together! Yours will too. I'm amazed by how much I have grown. XO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for blazing the missionary mom trail for me.

      Delete
  5. Well said. I've read you for years and I'm so happy you are writing again. We have raised our kids traveling back and forth to Haiti on mission trips to Haiti and doing lots of fun travel too. We have had so much fun, and they truly have a heart for missions. But now my daughter is 17 and she wants to go to Egypt with her best friend! Gasp! She says it's my fault. Man it is so tough to raise good kids and then have them leave. Prayers to you!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well said. I've read you for years and I'm so happy you are writing again. We have raised our kids traveling back and forth to Haiti on mission trips to Haiti and doing lots of fun travel too. We have had so much fun, and they truly have a heart for missions. But now my daughter is 17 and she wants to go to Egypt with her best friend! Gasp! She says it's my fault. Man it is so tough to raise good kids and then have them leave. Prayers to you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gasp! Thank you and thanks so much for reading.

      Delete
  7. An honest, full, weighty description. You are a good mom and that comes with a price. I admire you and Christian (and Maggie) very much.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have been watching my friends who are mothers of children going on missions. They all kind of hate it (and love it) but mostly hate it. And it doesn't get better during the two years their kids are away. I don't know what to do with this insight, but your experience completely conforms with everything I've heard from my other mom friends. And that sucks.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm not necessarily looking forward to this day for myself, but I really like reading what you have to say about it. Cheers to all your anticipated super-blessings for having a missionary out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! Don't think about it.

      Delete
  10. Maybe the attachment/helicopter parenting you referred to is a factor. Sending our son off 24 years ago didn't feel like what you described. I was more excited than sad. But he had been away at school for a year and then lived at home and worked for several months before he left. What has been wrenching for me as a parent was and is the process of watching a wayward boy struggle and flounder - especially since it seemed like we'd done all the same things with him as with our first son. Perhaps all these conflicting feelings and emotions help us understand the depth of feeling our Father in Heaven has for all of us. I'm predicting Sam will do a great job, have wonderful but challenging experiences, and you will find increasing peace each day as you realize that the Lord has loved him even longer than you have!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your wisdom and example, Barbara. Always. In every situation.

      Delete
  11. Okay, this post made me tear up a little bit and my oldest boy is only 2! I will have to do what you said and just try not to think about it. I hope Sam has the best time on his mission and doesn't meet too many people every day that don't like him.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It's so heartwrenching to even think about. But so are all the other tiny little bits I let go of as they grow, so I'll remember that by the time this milestone comes, I'll have had lots of practice. Oh, the strength a mama heart needs!

    ReplyDelete
  13. Being fibers rent asunder. Majorly. This is your Abraham moment, putting your most precious thing, your treasure, your life's work (so far) on the altar. And some friends are telling me that "they" say it gets easier, but then it doesn't, and sometimes the 76th week is just as bad as the first. So, GREAT. I'm pouring lemon juice in your papercut. But thanks for sharing these poignant feelings. I know you've made a lot of parents feel less weird.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Kacy! My friend Carie forwarded me you post and I couldn't agree more with all that you have said! A friend described the feelings of sending a missionary off as the best, anguish you will ever feel. You do feel like you are being split in 2. It is like part of your heart is in another part of the world.
    I have a daughter who returned from her mission in Brazil in May and my son left on his mission at the beginning of July. I don't think it necessarily gets easier, but you get use to the feelings. For me, I missed them so much, but I wouldn't want them doing anything else. I was so proud of their desire to serve and their worthiness to serve. And I, like you, believe in the gospel and the importance of serving a mission, but that does not make you miss them any less. You know that the work they do is of eternal significance, but that doesn't mean that you stop being their mom.
    I didn't feel "normal" until I hugged my daughter at the airport when she returned. I did experience and I am sure you will too, the comfort that you will need to make it through the next 2 years. The blessings that your entire family will receive are real.
    My thought and prayers are with you and your missionary :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for the pep talk, Cheri! I will re-read this.

      Delete
  15. Love this. I hope your fibers mend somehow.

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...