Monday, May 3, 2010

Different Children...Different Experiences

Almost from the moment you have your second child, you realize quickly that there are differences - child to child, experience to experience. When I was pregnant with my first child...I couldn't stand to eat meat...beef of any type - hamburger, steak, whatever, was just more than I could handle. My daughter was born on a beautiful day in September...and immediately, eating meat again was no problem.

A few years later, I was pregnant with Elie - meat was no problem...but I simply could not tolerate chicken...not the smell, not the look, certainly not the taste. It was the same when I was pregnant with Shmulik and again with my third son.

When I was pregnant with my fifth child (and second daughter)...I kept eating I had with Amira...but I couldn't handle beef again. It was my first hint that it was a girl again, and not a boy. And it only continued.

Amira was such a girl...she played with dolls and loved to cuddle. She used toy cars to transport her dolls to the store and to the library. Elie was such a boy...he used dolls to fight, smashed his cars into walls (maybe the library?).

Shmulik was somewhere in between. He cuddled every bit as much as Amira and yet he too loved to smash those cars into anything within reach. And so it went...each child, each in his or her own way.

Shmulik is very different from Elie is so many ways. Easier, gentler in personality and so much harder in other ways. These last two weeks have shown me again how different they are. Last week, Shmulik was sick on base. Only now am I hearing about times when Elie was sick...but it comes in the form of hearing how well they took care of him. This unit seems to be less attentive to the soldiers, less caring of the individual.

When they had Parents' Day on Shmulik's base (something they didn't have with Elie), they were so positive, so encouraging...and yet, when it came down to it...Shmulik was left two days feeling miserable and unable to see a doctor...and when he did, the unit took part of what the doctor ordered...but added on their own commands so that Shmulik, though not out in the field, was left to wash dishes (and where is the logic of a sick soldier washing dishes?).

On the other hand, from the start, Elie learned that to survive and triumph as a soldier, he had to adapt his lifestyle to the army. The army was not going to adapt to him. The army assumes the boys will try to get out of working and so it forces them into a new reality, a tough one. You are a man now, not someone's child. Be a man, grow up. Deal.

It worked for isn't working nearly so well with Shmulik.

When Elie came home from the army...even from the beginning...he went to bed early and awakened on his own to get himself back to base. Shmulik still insists on staying out late Saturday nights with friends and comes home tired...only to awaken and return to base tired as well. I knew from the start it was a bad formula, but I hoped it would change.

My husband was plagued with migraines as a child, as a young man, and even now. Most of my children get them occasionally as well...Elie did, and now Shmulik does as well. You can control them...if you sleep enough but Shmulik didn't sleep enough this past Saturday night, woke early to return to base Sunday, and then was marched around doing soldier stuff till Sunday evening, when he told me he had a bad headache. No wonder, I thought to myself.

But today it was much worse - again, not unexpected. He went to the medic and the medic recommended that he not go out to the field but stay on base until he could be checked by a doctor. These weeks in the field are critical...and the units don't want their soldiers left behind. Already, two from another unit have "fallen" - meaning they have been sent out of the combat unit to become "jobniks."

A few hours later despite being told he should stay on base, Shmulik was ordered to go out to the field and called to tell me. He sounded bad, in pain...and asked me to try to call someone in the army. He also called a friend, who then called to tell me Shmulik still sounded bad, having been moved out to the field...the friend said Shmulik sounded horrible, dizzy and sick with a headache.

I had numbers given to me while attending Parents' Day and so I called first his Mem Pay (Commander of the Battalion) and when he didn't answer, I eventually called even higher. The gist of it was that they finally brought Shmulik back to base, where he is resting now.

The officer I spoke to was annoyed - he felt that I should not have interfered. He told me it was a "cultural" mistake - and clearly it was that I didn't understand the army culture...but I do, I thought to myself as I tried to explain to him that he doesn't know me, doesn't know Shmulik. I explained that in three years, I had never once called Elie's commanding officers...I explained that my son is not one who whines and cries at every little thing. It would be easier if he did.

He referred to one of his little daughters, implying that Shmulik was acting like a baby instead of a man of 18. He's 20, not 18, I told the commander...and he's obviously in pain.

I never liked hearing stories from Elie about parents who interfered with the army...Elie felt...and I agree, that in the long run, they weaken our soldiers and damage the work of the army because the soldiers are often less tough. It seems parents are always trying to fight the army to protect their children...and in so doing...they actually damage their children because they are then less prepared for battle, less able to cope with the harsh realities that a soldier must face.

And yet...and yet...

In the end, with the pressure of a parent, Shmulik was brought back from the field...with the pressure of a parent...that leaves me feeling sad and angry. I didn't want to pressure them; didn't want them telling me I was wrong to interfere...and I didn't want my son in pain.

Different children, different experiences...this one, I didn't want. I hate having called the army and yet someone or something has to budge...the hard truth here is that Shmulik will have to learn to adapt to the army because the army will not adapt to him.


mamma-mia said...

I think if I was given my son's commanders phone numbers, I would have called 20 times already!

Besides the fact that they continue to postpone his MRI for is ankle, (going on 5 months since his injury), he has had some other issues including fever and stomach as well...

I really was led to believe that the army takes good care of their soldiers, I am beginning to wonder.

I hope that Shmulik is getting better. I still don't know how you can do this more then once!

Be well,

Ann said...

You were 100% right - I'd have done the same.
You know your son - you know the army.
There are big differences nowadays.
1. We've heard far too many stories of soldiers becoming extremely sick and even (lo aleynu) dying due to the army not paying attention to their medical problems.
2. Our sons can contact us real time with cell phones and we know what's happening. You heard your son suffering. No mother could ignore that.

esther m. said...

I'm amazed again at how your story seems so like mine. My first son (who was with your Elie in the army) managed fine, did what he did and didn't involve us except to tell funny stories at the shabbat table. My second son's giyus has been problematic from the first. He still isn't sure where he will be after tironut. He is not kravi because of his migraines, davka. He will probably be sent to chovshim which he didn't want.

thanks for listening.


Anonymous said...

If you like reading books, I recommend David Grossman's Yellow Wind.

Gila said...

Mixed feelings here. I understand why you called (and even though I do not have kids, I suspect (hope) that I would make the same call if I were worried about my child's health.) At the same time, to a certain extent, Shmulik brought this on himself. Based on what you wrote, he knows he gets migranes and he knows how to prevent them. The real question is whether he going to learn from this and start going to bed on time, or is he going to continue with the irresponsible behavior, and expect you to bail him out again. If not, "jobnik" (aka--still a valuable service, but a job where no one expects him to operate heavy machinery or a weapon) might be a better place for him.

True story--when I was a teenager, I had a bit of a problem with food--would eat huge amounts. (Unrecognized eating disorder-compulsive eating). Anyway, I participated in a candy sale. And instead of selling the candy, I ate it. My parents did not bail me out. They ordered me to tell the teacher running the sale what happened. I could not get my grades until the candy was paid for (school rules). Did my parents give me the money? No way! I paid from the earnings from my job that summer.

This was one of the most horrible, humiliating experiences of my life. (Baruch Hashem that the teacher in question was as gracious as could be about it). The point is that I believe that my parents did the right thing. It helped me to make some major changes in my life shortly thereafter.

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