"Imagine your only child going... and then waiting for me to come back."
"I would go early in the morning because the sun wouldn't go out and they (the snipers) wouldn't see me."
These words are haunting me. I tear up while thinking about them during my commute. I dream nightly that I am trying to hide my children in bunkers. I scan pages such as these for stories of families surviving in war zones, in spite of the odds.
As a mother, I made a conscious decision not to raise my children in a remote Massachusetts fishing village, partly because of one particular conversation in the local post office in which two neighbors discussed whether they owned guns that could be classified as semi-automatic weapons. I thought, "I would rather raise my children in New York City in a constant state of near-paranoia, instead of somewhere they would never expect to find a Beretta 391."
But these words, from an interview with Vanesa Glodjo, an actress in Angelina Jolie's new film, "In The Land of Blood and Honey," take maternal fear -- and love -- to an entirely different level. When the war in Bosnia started, Vanesa had just graduated from high school and was ready to audition for the Academy of Performing Arts to pursue her dream of becoming an actor. Initially, she waited, but at some point during the conflict, she and her mother had to make a decision: Should Vanesa pursue her dream in spite of the fact that their house was on the front lines? Or, in order to protect her life, should she give up everything she had ever dreamed of becoming? A dream her mother had likely nurtured and cultivated since Vanesa was a small child?
Clearly, Vanesa and her mother decided that a young woman's dreams were to be honored and pursued even in the face of war. So, Vanesa left the house every morning before daylight, hoping to sneak past the snipers one more time. Her mother would stay at home, waiting for her only child to return, bracing herself for what she would do if the unthinkable happened. I cannot begin to fathom the emotional length of those days -- even knowing that the alternative was being cooped up in a house in a war zone with a petulant teenage girl.
Like most parents, I want to raise my children to become anything and everything they want to be. But I support and encourage them in their aspirations from the seemingly secure vantage point of life in the United States. How would my parenting change if their lives were endangered every time they left the house? Could I make the same decision Vanesa's mother made? I have been thinking about it, and I just don't know. Last night, snuggled under the blanket on the couch with my youngest, I squeezed him tightly and silently vowed, 'No.'
Surely I am not the only mother who feels this way. Yet, I am stunned when I Google the phrase "mothers against war". There are not nearly enough results for active organizations -- click and see for your self. Think about it. Who better than mothers to work together to protect children from violence and encourage their hopes and dreams? When I consider the depth and fierceness of my love for my children and then imagine that focus and strength multiplied exponentially around the globe, it feels nearly indomitable.
I am not naïve. I know that the causes of war are not going to disappear -- ever. Still, I believe part of our responsibility as mothers is to use our voices and our strength -- and our love -- to raise awareness about the impact of war beyond the headlines and the sound bites of our world. If we don't, who will?
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