A Mother’s Dread

By Ursula Hennessey

This weekend, my husband urged me to watch Peter Robinson interviewing Victor Davis Hanson for Uncommon Knowledge. He knew I’d love it, and I did.

Hanson feeds my voracious appetite for Greek and Roman history. He also teaches me a bit about World Wars I and II, periods of history about which I am embarrassingly clueless. I could listen to him all day.

However, I am the morbid and self-centered sort. So when Hanson points out that Americans of previous generations were better prepared for the anguish and difficulty of war than we are today, with our “500 channels” and our cell phones, I feel exposed. He’s right. I have no tolerance for real pain. I have no experience with agony.

The next day, my eyes settled, starkly, on the face of Paddy, my little boy. For the first time, I wondered if he would serve our country. I wondered if he should. This tiny guy, trying to jump with his chubby little legs and smiling with delight when he discovers a ladybug in the sandbox, could one day become a casualty of war.

Generations of mothers, I’m sure, have had this thought. The joy of hearing, “It’s a boy!” went hand-in-hand with the deep fear that he would one day be taken away by war. Perhaps these mothers also felt pride that their boy would be valued for his strong body, his courage, and his devotion – all useful for defending the city-state, the country, the nation.

War, as Hanson points out, has always been with us. Presumably, so has a mother’s dread. Yet, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me until now, 19 months into his charmed but unremarkable life. How spoiled and lucky I’ve been.



  1. Hi Ursula.

    As a parent, these thoughts have come more than once. Our daughter is 16, and while I never worried that she be drafted, I know how hard the military pushes into the high schools looking for new recruits. I did sign paperwork that would force them to keep their distance…unless she initiates it.

    I’m all for patriotism, and I have the greatest respect for those who chose to serve. But we’re caught up in so many situations that seem unresolvable. There are so many kids NOT coming home…and for what?

    Paddy is a beautiful and terrific little boy. Enjoy every moment with him. “Dread” is about the unknown and our anxious fantasies about the future.

    I’ll chose to live and love in the moment with my beautiful little(?) girl. Naive? Maybe. But it works for me…

  2. Great post. With a 9 month old son, I can definitely relate.

    Heather at http://heatheronawire.wordpress.com

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