Big Shoes for Little Feet

So, yesterday I ran into a lady from my ward at the grocery store. This woman is SUPER nice and awesome. They have a large family and she told me she just dropped her son off at the MTC in Provo to go on his mission to Brazil and then he called her the day before and told her his visa had come so he was headed to the Brazil MTC. I was genuinely excited for her, since that is big news in the Mormon culture, and probably an event she has looked forward to and dreaded all at once for some time. I shared my excitement and she looked at Andrew who was sitting like a big boy in the front of the shopping cart, his legs dangling down, turned around looking at her, and she said, “Before you know it you’ll have a missionary.”

I was not at all offended by her comment. It was a nice comment in Mormon culture. I think I said, “Yeah, time goes fast, doesn’t it,” or something to that effect.

But it made me think. A million different things. And it made me feel a million things too. There was a bitter-sweet momma moment where I looked at my nearly-one-year-old and nearly cried seeing that he no longer looks like a little baby as I watched him sitting happily (or not so happily) in the front of my shopping cart. Time really IS going fast, and he is SOOO cute that I just want to slow time down a little bit sometimes to just savor the moments a little more. Then there was the sad moment…the moment where I remembered that it is not a given, maybe not even all that likely that my son will go on a mission growing up in our home. It’s not impossible, but it’s one of the hard realizations I will have to come to terms with. But then there was the frustrated moment where I thought, wait a second, my son is not even quite one year old–he’s still a baby–and there are already expectations about what he will do in 18ish years. The culture already expects my son will serve a mission, and the people in the church who will probably grow up knowing him will be disappointed to some extent if he doesn’t fulfill their expectations. That’s kind of a lot of assumptions to be making about my one-year-old boy, isn’t it? Especially since no one has any idea what he will be like when he is 18/19 years old. I barely could even say I have an educated guess as to what he will be like and I spend basically ever waking moment of my day with him, so…just saying. Is it really reasonable that the church has these kind of expectations of baby boys, just because they happen to enter the world as a Mormon (or make that half-Mormon at best) male? I think not. I certainly had no problem with the idea that it is a priesthood duty to serve a mission when I was a TBM, I even swore I would only marry a return missionary, but I don’t really like it now. I have no problem with missions, I honestly don’t, I know some people do, but I don’t. I think it is great when people want to go and share the things that make them happy in hopes that those things will make someone else happy, but telling boys it is their duty, I don’t like it any more for so very many reasons.  And that hit me hard as I was standing there looking at my one-year old, frustrated, wondering why it could already be assumed he would go on a mission and at the same moment, sad that he possibly/probably won’t.

Do I want to raise my child in this culture? This culture that has already planned the major points of my one-year-old’s life, not based on his personality or desires (he’s one after all), but based on his sex. I had never thought about this questions so profoundly as in that moment. Do I want that? Or better, is it worth it? Would I be getting more good than bad out of this? Of course, there is the fact that Ricardo and I probably have more influence than the church does…probably…and that will also factor in. And there is the fact that my kids are, like I said, only going to be half Mormon at best, since Ricardo is their dad, and, well…I am a bit confused on my future at the moment.

I guess I think, and hope, that if I choose to take my kids to the Mormon church on my Sundays, and sing them primary songs and church hymns, and teach them the truths I embrace from Mormonism that they will be getting more good than bad. But I guess my grocery store encounter with this totally innocent woman who had no idea the conundrum she was causing me, caused me to wonder again, what is best for my kids?

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2 Responses to Big Shoes for Little Feet

  1. Jennifer says:

    ya, I think you have a good point. Sometimes I sense my manipulation when I say things like “when you will”, implying that there’s no decision to be made on their part. I hope in the past few years I’ve done better with that. Then I read books about raising boys in particular (I can go look up who I read if you’d like) who talk about how one of the problems for boys in particular today is that we don’t have high expectations/duties for them to rise up to and then I’m really grateful that we have some. How can we have standards and yet not be so manipulative or judgmental of other paths?? Maybe some kind of balance?? I’ll just say that IMO rising to righteous duties/desires freely chosen is pretty awesome and respect for other paths is pretty awesome too since for some of us it takes other paths to get to good places.

  2. Merikay Smith says:

    Alicia, I can’t believe I hadn’t encountered your blogs before this. I love your piece written 16 days after Ricardo’s brain hemorrhage. So insightful and particularly meaning for me right now as I have a young friend whose husband has been in ICU with a serious head trauma. Fortunately it looks like he will recover, as Ricardo did, but what a difficult journey.

    About this “Big Shoes for Little Feet” blog, I remember thinking as a mother that I would not create that expectation to serve an LDS mission: no mission piggy-banks, no “I Hope They Call Me on a Mission” songs (at home, at least), etc. I was concerned about what seemed like extreme cultural pressure on young people. Instead I talked with my kids about how a person is free to decide — that serving a mission is a good thing but only if it’s what feels right to you, etc. Then my children grew up and decided not only not to serve missions, but that they really don’t want anything to do with the LDS Church. As I’ve contrasted the mostly positive experiences that young men and women have as they serve missions, I genuinely grieve at the loss. I sometimes wish I could turn back the clock and be a bit more like many of my LDS peers and reinforce in every possible way (short of coercion, of course) the positive aspects of serving a mission.

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