Our youngest son and fourth chayal has just started his army service and is in Michve Alon (pre-army training and ulpan). Yesterday he was so excited because he got his gun (fortunately they don’t give them any bullets yet) and he posted a picture of it on our family WhatsApp group. What ensued was a long discussion about what kind of gun it was, how it was different from what chayal #1 and #2 got in michve and whether it was a lefty or a righty gun, and then after a few more pictures, how they could tell. By the way my only contribution to this discussion was to repeatedly ask for a picture of chayal #4 in uniform a request which was tacitly ignored as he posted more pictures of the gun. I watched as this conversation progressed and wondered — how in the world did I get here, how is this now my life?
When we have children I think we assume that they will follow a similar path to our own. In our case, we thought that would be a degree, job, marriage and then children, that’s the way we did it and have five amazing sons (no, they don’t have any sisters) to show for it. Our oldest son did follow our expected path. We’re extremely proud of our eldest and the man he’s become and not just because he’s the first to bring a girl into our testosterone heavy family! So as his brothers got older, we were fairly complacent, we thought he’d set a pattern, boy were we wrong. His brothers took a distinctly different path, they all did it a little differently, but they all ended up in the same place, lone soldiers in the IDF.
Now, with five years of “experience,” we’re firmly ensconced in the IDF army world. Like two of our sons we’re now “veterans”, knowing for the most part the course that follows their tzav rishon until they “cut their card”, learning new things every day and amazed at what we already know. My army Hebrew is now better than my conversational Hebrew. I know the difference between **chamshush, chafshash, and hashba’ah; a mefaked, to mishtachrar, and a meyuchedet; shatash, the shetach, and shmira (and that’s just a sampling!)
Recently, we were in Rome. I was surprised at the heavy military presence there, but as in Israel I was comforted by the sight of armed guards. I know those guns are there to protect me and those carrying them are trained to use them. I remarked to one of my chayalim that the last time we were in Israel I didn’t notice as many soldiers walking around or standing guard. He told me that it wasn’t because there were less of them, it’s because I’m just used to seeing them.
Wow, what an evolution for me. I was the mom that didn’t allow toy guns in the house, even with five sons. The mom that made sure that there weren’t any guns in their friend’s house before they went on a play date. Oh, how times have changed! Now I’m the mom that relishes pictures of her sons in uniform with and without their weapon. I’ve become the mom that has gone shooting with them when they were home visiting, it wasn’t pretty, but there seems to be photographic evidence as the boys took pictures for posterity’s sake. As lone soldiers they often have to carry their weapon with them when we’re in Israel visiting because it can’t be safely locked up where we’re staying, so we travel Israel with our very own armed escorts. This has become the norm, the expected, the everyday. The beauty of this is that I’m not shaking my head and wondering where we as parents went wrong — I’m shaking my head and wondering how we got it so right.
So as I wait for chayal #4 for send me his first picture in uniform so I can post it with pride I silently thank all the other parents, Israeli parents but especially lone soldier parents who got it so right too.
**Chamshush – getting Thursday off
Chafshash – a few weeks between finishing the army and cutting their card (discharge)
Hashba’ah – swearing in
Mefaked – commander
Mishtachrar – finishing the army, dishcharge
Meyuchedet – 30 days leave given to lone soldiers to visit their family abroad
Shatash – an hour at the end of the day to do personal business – like call their mother
Shetach – the field
Shmira – guard duty