Readers here know I am the mother of sons--five of them to be exact. All are grown now, ranging in age from 30 to 47. One passed away 6 years ago.
As a parent I tried not to influence their thinking. I allowed my sons to think for themselves, to make decisions and choices based on the ethics I tried to role-model for them. I can't say I was a perfect parent or that there were times when I acted in ways I am less than proud of today. But I think I did a good job raising good men with strong morals and ethics, men who work hard and contribute to our society.
Today, though, I wonder if I was wrong. Three sons grew up to be solidly Republican, one seems to be fence straddling and one is Democrat. We have always worked with these differences in outlook and beliefs, and for many years have had pretty much a truce, an agreement to not discuss the areas where our thinking differs except in neutral terms. It has worked pretty well.
Last night I had conversations with two of my sons. The one is worried about his girlfriend's immigrant status and that of almost everyone he knows in his work and personal life in Florida. The state, as we all know, is heavily populated with immigrants. Many are illegals, working and trying to stay undercover so they can stay in this country. Many others are legal, and came here to improve their lives. Many gave up good jobs in their home country to come here; they worked low-paying jobs doing menial labor, sometimes holding down two or three jobs at a time. They slowly made their way up the ladder to new, high-paying positions in respected companies. His girlfriend is here legally, but her hearing is still pending before the immigration board. She's scared. This son is angry at the current situation with immigrants, and worried about this woman he loves.
The other son was career military. He is all for the current ban on immigrants, and thinks Trump is the only president to act immediately on his campaign promises. He distrusts Muslims (with reason, given his three tours in the Mid-East and close contact with them). He also thinks the women's march was stupid, the participants a bunch of people who don't have jobs--I guess I am included in that since I'm retired. He asked if I'd seen a lot of trouble, that these people were violent and did damage. Which of course was not the case. It was an orderly, upbeat day, with zero arrests. He went on to say that he didn't understand why we have a problem with Trump's treatment of women since Clnton did the same things. I could not even respond to that; if a man can't see why so many women are appalled at Trump, he clearly looks at the world through filters completely foreign to me.
I have not heard from my other sons since the march. I wonder if their disapproval is so strong they just don't want to call. It hurts because I have never judged their choices even if I did not agree. I never felt it was my place to judge them; they were men and could make their own choices. Sadly, they apparently do not extend the same courtesy to me.
Which leaves me where I started with this post: where did I go wrong? Should I have been more authoritarian, insisted they believed as I did, showed my displeasure and disapproval when their choices were not what I liked? I thought my job was to teach them to think, to know the difference between right and wrong.
One thing I have noticed is that my sons' thinking seems to be strongly affected by where they live and work. One is in a small bible-belt, mostly white community in a rural area; one was career military and now works a blue-collar job in another mostly white bible belt area; a third works in a power plant, a college grad in a blue collar job where he is surrounded by men with high school educations. Had I not moved to this rural, mostly white, strongly Christian state, would my sons have turned out differently? I myself was isolated from the political climate of where I live simply by where I live--off the beaten track--and by my wide reading and listening choices. College, many courses in history and work in the strongly free-speech library all contributed to molding my outlook and core political philosophy.
I am proud of my sons. I am glad that they think for themselves, are ethical and strongly patriotic. I think, however, that they are not so proud of their mother as she steps from the shadow of her convictions and begins to voice her opinions in her older age.
Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.