Friday, October 18, 2013

How to Prepare Your Son to Serve an LDS Mission

The real, simple answer is Get Lucky. All children have to find their own path, their own moral compass. And for some that process involves twists, turns, and hard-knock lessons. Having a child who is willing to follow God's commandments with minimal rebellion is luck of the draw. That said, as I reflect on sending Roscoe out, here are a few things that I feel were key in helping him make it this far.

Fill em with Love
From the moment they are conceived, fill your baby with love, affirmation, and delight. When they're an infant, you can pour it on in huge globbing doses. As time goes on, they can receive less and less, so maximize your chances while they're young.

Teach Values
Link every family rule, every parental instruction--from "Clean your room" to "Use your napkin"--to eternal principles of choice, consequence, accountability, sacrifice, obedience, and charity. Then let them make their own choices and reap the rewards.

Teach the Gospel
Every Sunday, Family Home Evening, family scripture study, and teachable moment is mission prep. Misision prep isn't something best crammed for. Teach the principles and doctrines, and scripture stories day in and day out from the very start.

Have horrible conversations..
Starting younger than you think, have an ongoing series of painfully awkward conversations about things like wet dreams, pornography, girls, puberty, hair. If you are very lucky, make your husband do these. The conversations should start before your boy really has any idea what you're talking about. These early conversations can be vague on the details. Then have the same conversations again when they're getting an idea, and again when they're in the thick of it all.

...and just tiresome ones.
Teenagers do want to talk to their parents. Just usually they want to do so at inopportune moments. And face it, in a busy family, it's hard for them to find a moment to get your undivided attention. If, just when you are finally cracking open your new book at ten o'clock at night, your teenage son plops on the foot of your bed, listen. If, just when you have finally gotten the little kids to sleep, your teenage son wants to vent about his stupid teenage friends doing stupid teenage things at a stupid teenage party, listen. When they are open, you must be open. Because it does not work the other way around.

(Although, you can often create an open moment in which to talk to your teen by whisking them away suddenly for random fast food. We refer to this as "Fast Food Parenting." As in, "Hey, it might take us a long time to get home from that SAT info meeting because I think our son could use a little Fast Food Parenting.")

Shop Quality
We decided not to buy Roscoe the cheapest missionary gear we could find. Shipping replacements to Argentina will be pricey and we want him to look presentable, not rumpled and cheap. We bought his suit, shoes, and several other things from Missionary Mall. They guarantee everything for two years. If it wears out, email them a photo and they'll replace it for free. This actually won't do us much good since we would pay the shipping, which as I said, is prohibitive. But this policy has given them both a motivation to sell long-wearing gear and lots of consumer data with which to tweak their offerings. For example, read here about how they developed their shoes with their manufacturer based on missionary feedback. We bought Roscoe several Traveler's shirts from Jos. A. Banks. Again, not the cheapest option, but apparently these shirts Do. Not. Wrinkle. We bought them at a 3 for $99 sale.

Grieve in Advance
I am so grateful for all the friends who told me that dropping their son at the MTC was the hardest day of their life. That prospect scared me to death. The week before D-day, I cried every morning and every night just thinking of the moment I was toDrop. Off. My. Baby. And. Drive. Away. It seemed unfathomable. But by the time D-day dawned, I had processed a lot of those feelings and was able to focus more on the joy and excitement.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Second Labor

Today is Roscoe's last day at home. Every passing comment he makes feels laden with significance.

Roscoe: "Thanks for the veggie burger, Mom."
Me: *sniff sniff*

It's hard not to wax dramatic about how after today our family will never be the same, never be as together. Thinking of coming home tomorrow and seeing his car in the driveway, his empty room. Thinking of Betsy saying goodbye to him, the empty kitchen chair, Logan alone on a Saturday night...


Last night we had a beautiful Family Home Evening. Mark and I decided we want to help all the kids think of Roscoe's mission as something great that they are all contributing to. We reminded them of the great things our family has accomplished as a team--being a foster family, helping Mark finish his Ph.D., supporting Mark in the bishopric--and the extra sense of blessing, purpose, and unity we had as a result. Mark told the story of the first McGees to encounter missionaries. We talked about how Mark's family and my family both came to the gospel through missionaries and the huge rippling waves of lives that have been blessed as a result. It was a beautiful evening.

When Roscoe was born, I thought his birth was the hardest thing I had ever done. It changed me forever. Put me in a new place in the world. It was hard. But completely worth it. And I've done many hard things since.

Ditto sending my firstborn out of the nest. I think dropping Roscoe off on the cub will be the hardest thing I have ever done. It'll put our family in an entirely different context. But it's completely worth it, and I hope to do the exact same thing several more times.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Roscoe's Farewell

Roscoe's farewell Sunday was a sweet, sweet day.

Here are just a few of the people who showed up to hear Roscoe's lovely talk in sacrament meeting. Including both McGee grandparents and his Grandma Ashurst. ("You mean, we're gonna have double grandma action up in here?" he asked me the week before. Yes indeed, a missionary gets double grandma action.)
 Then we paused in all the missionaryness to document brotherly awesomeness.

 Logan, I must say, has been a real champ through all our missionary mania. Approximately 1,394 people have said to him something along the lines of, "Well, you're next, Logan." Which is exactly the kind of pressure and assumption that rubs him the wrong way. But he has remained Roscoe's gracious supporter.
 That evening, we had a cookie party and put together what I think was a beautiful little dessert buffet table. Thanks to my sister Nancy for the fabulous banner. (The Spanish error you see is my fault, not hers. My hispanohablante sister-in-law informed me that the banner says, "Argentina is alive!" which is not really what I had in mind. But whatever.)

The house was soon a happy throng of loved ones and well wishers.
It all ended with this.