Stories from the Station: A Mother's anguish
I ask her to join us, to sign the petition. She smiles bravely and then begins to talk about her son. She tells me she had her child later in life, she didn’t think she was going to have a baby and then the miracle of her son happened to her.
She mentions some of the joys, the struggles, what to teach him, where to bring him, what does he need; her face reflects the amazement and loving light of mothers speaking of the wonders and tribulations of their babies.
She talks about how you raise your child one way, how sweet and kind the child is, how trusting and alive, and then suddenly they turn around and threaten to take a path you never want them on.
She talks about her son, a student at Berkeley High. She said in 9th grade, he did so well. He excelled academically, he was happy, he had friends. Then this year, at 15 years old, he had a very hard time in school, he’s failing, he feels rejected, unaccepted by his peers. She doesn’t know what to do, how to ease his pain, keep him on a path she knows will come out of the turmoil – but a recruiter has interfered, told her son he just needs discipline. His mother is too easy on him; he needs a stronger father figure in his life. And he needs to belong.
And her son believes the recruiter.
We are weeping. She is desperate. When I tell her he is still young, he will get through this too, she nods with little conviction, having heard all this before. Easy words for me to utter, it is her son that is in danger.
“How do I counter recruiters?” she asks anguish flooding her voice, her face. "My son is so vulnerable, hurting so much and I can't help him". I gather up some pamphlets but she shakes her head. She has already given him all of the ones we have.
I urge her to join us, to get support for herself, to never give up on him.
I do not mention but I remember the mother who came by & told me what she told her son: she would get a gun herself & shoot him in the foot if he tried to join ANY branch of the military while we were invading other countries.
I try to reassure her again, he is young, whatever he signs now, he can get out of. She knows all this. “if he wants to” is so understood.
She thanks us again for being here. Signs the petition, waves through her tears as she hurries away.