The time hasn’t flown by for me

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With the many changes the new mission ages bring to Mormon culture, I pray we can eliminate this phrase from our vernacular, “The time has just flown by!” usually accompanied by, “I can’t believe your son/daughter has been gone that long.”

Ask me how he’s doing. Ask me what city he’s serving in. Or don’t ask me at all. But please, please don’t say the time has flown by, because all I hear is, “I haven’t missed him one bit.”

I know, serving a mission is a privilege, just as bearing a child is a privilege and I know there are mothers who desperately wish their child was on a mission. During my pregnancies I threw up several times a day, suffered through varicose veins, false labor and all kinds of fun infections and complications. Because I was surrounded by friends suffering from infertility, I was careful not to complain but I still didn’t appreciate people saying, “Wow. You just pop out those babies like it’s nothing.”

The very few women who feel fantastic during pregnancy– healthier, happier, strong, glowing!– seem to speak loud and often, spreading the myth of easy pregnancies and slipping into their jeans they day after baby is born. In the same vein, I’ve met moms of missionaries who’ve crowed, “The time is just flying by.” Good for them, but please don’t assume it’s true for the rest of us.

I miss my boy. I miss his goofy expressions, his quick laughter, his Tarzan yell on days he’s especially happy and his creative projects spread across the floor. I miss discussing books with him, arguing about politics, finding a little stack of quarters by my computer when he’s purchased a new song on iTunes and swinging his little sister around the kitchen while he sings out loud.

Twenty months into his mission I’m dealing with the very real truth most people have forgotten him: his girlfriend, my ward, friends from school. And it’s OK. But I don’t want to hear about it. It’s especially not funny when someone argues with me, “This March? But surely you mean March of 2014. He just left!”

I know, four months to go is nearing the finish line but we are celebrating all the holidays, all of our birthdays without my boy. Wouldn’t you miss your child? And the minute he gets home, I’m sending the next one out.

In the past few weeks I’ve watched 18 and 19 year olds open calls to Nicaragua, Peru, Australia, England, Russia, Chile, Alaska and Oklahoma. All of these missionaries, all of these families need our love and support.

Speaking of a mission as a sacrifice isn’t culturally acceptable around Mormons, but my friends outside the church are amazed by the rules and requirements– “He’s not getting paid?” “He doesn’t get to choose where to go?” “You can’t call him or text or Skype?” “But you can visit, right?” “No movies or dating or even reading novels?” “Is his companion his best friend from high school?” no, no, no, no, no, no and no.

Let me clarify– I know people mean well and I’ve never been offended by their comments. I simply feel a bit rubbed raw hearing ‘the time is flying by’ over and over and over.

While we are at it, let’s push the delete button on, “You’re look like you’re going to pop.” towards pregnant women, “God must have needed them more than you.” to someone who’s lost a loved one, “Why aren’t you married yet?” towards single friends and “When are you going to have a baby?” to young couples.

Hmm, a simple “How are you?” may be the best greeting of all.

What phrases and questions would you like to see eliminated?

How can we best support each other in wards and families?

About Michelle L.

(Blog Editor) never folds laundry and her car is a mess. She runs through the streets of Salt Lake City, UT, takes lots of photos, plays Uno with her five fabulous boys and buys way too many dresses for the little princess. Her husband is the most romantic man in the world because he does all the Costco shopping AND hauls it into the house (sorry to make you jealous girls). She writes at Scenes from the Wild.

49 thoughts on “The time hasn’t flown by for me

  1. I loved this. I really hate these phrases we use – like, no one really wants YOUR opinion on a situation. When it isn’t your friend or brother or child, it can feel like a mission flies by, but (since my brother is half-way through his mission right now), to the family, it kind of feels like forever. Only half-way through? But we’ve done so much without him, and every family event feels weird without him, even though yes, he’d be away at college anyway. He’ll be rushing back next September, and then straight back to school. So who knows when I’ll even see him next?

    I do think though that we try to remind people that missions are a sacrifice. Or in any case, I think we should. Two years is a long time, no matter how you look at it, and it’s a lot to give up. I don’t think it’s fair to anyone to overlook that aspect of it.

  2. Thank you, Michelle. Even though my boys are a long way from going on missions, I can’t begin to wrap my head around not seeing or being with them for two. whole. years.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I would love it if in our LDS culture, we could eliminate the sentiment, “You were chosen in the pre-existence,” or “You are especially brave/strong/blessed,” when we encounter the parents of a child with a disability. Ask me about my disabled child. Ask any medical question you want. Ask me how I am doing. Ask how my other children are doing. Ask about the particulars of his day or what we have been through with him. Just don’t tell me how blessed I am.

  3. I think this is really important! My nephew finished his mission this summer, and my SIL was a wreck the entire time. It was so hard on her to have him gone, and I think she thought it would be so much easier because of how we talk about missions and missionaries. He had a particularly rough time on his mission also, so when people would say things like that– the time flying by, how much he must be loving it, how their family must be feeling so blessed– she felt like there was no one to talk to about how hard it was. We should probably be taking better care of and supporting these families with missionaries instead of just admiring them for their child’s service.

  4. Michelle, the ward I most call home has two young men out on missions. The difference between their experiences (and those of their parents, siblings, friends) couldn’t be more different. One is serving in his home country, just a different state, in a “traditional” mission: so close but so far away. His family already feel the way you do, even though he’s only been gone six weeks.
    The other is half a world away, locked away in Provo but only a Facebook message away. He’s in that Mormon.org monitoring, social media running “experimental” mission. It is an odd situation for all involved.

    In terms of the question, I’d like to see paid to the idea that women are just naturally more caring, etc. we ned to recognise this is a social training and that men have the same ability, and resposibilty, to be caring kind and compassionate parents and friends.

  5. I completely get what you are saying, but I think back and realize I have said something similar and it never meant I didn’t miss them. It honestly meant I can’t believe that my missing them is almost over. So, thank you for this, I am going to express myself differently in the future, and that can only be a good thing.

  6. Oh this made me sad. I’m the mother of a 16 yr old son and an almost 18 yr old one. I don’t like to think of the changes that are coming, particularly the ones that involve them living somewhere else besides my home. I want them to serve missions but that is bitter-sweet because it means we’ve come to the end of childhood and we can’t go back.

  7. Having just come from the throes of infertility, there are a few well-meaning phrases I’d really like to see die:

    “Just relax and it will happen!”
    “Your time will come! Just keep an eternal perspective!”
    “At least you’re getting sleep at night!”

    Dealing with many years of well-meant but really insensitive comments has made me try to be more careful in what I say. Often, I think we just don’t know WHAT to say to someone in a situation we haven’t experienced, and it’s easy to fall back on platitudes that are never actually helpful….

  8. My parents are coming home in July after three years away. I miss them a lot.

    I have said this on the blog before, but I will say it again: don’t ask me if I’m pregnant. Either I’m not and I just look extra fat that day, or I am and for VERY GOOD REASONS OF MY OWN I just don’t want to talk about it or share it.

    Also, don’t ask right after I have one baby when the next one is coming. I was astounded by the number of people (random acquaintances, not close friends) who did this right after my youngest was born.

    We are so used to speaking in these patterns, though, and often it takes experiencing it yourself or being close to someone who has to realize how hurtful some comments can be. I know I’ve said similar things without realizing the damage they may have caused.

  9. I probably shouldn’t respond to this post because it has made me cranky. But I’m going to anyway.

    People aren’t out to hurt you or offend you. Their feelings/experiences aren’t any less valid than yours; nor does their experience negate yours. Please don’t twist people’s words around. (They said, “Wow, time flies!” You heard, “I don’t miss him at all!” Someone says, “How many kids would you like to have?” and you hear,”Hurry up, already! You should have 4 kids by now. You must be unrighteous/unfaithful/losers! Do you need someone to teach you how it’s done, for heaven’s sake?!”) It’s not fair, and you’re faulting them for something they didn’t say and certainly didn’t mean.

    They are not telling you that your time has flown by; they are just saying that they don’t have the same markers as you do to keep track of that time. (And, “Holy cow! What else have I lost track of?!”) You would be just as surprised to realize the time passage of something in their life, no doubt.

    People are trying to be friendly and connect with you. THAT is what their point is. Accept THAT hand of friendship and stop putting meaning into their questions and comments that are not there. Maybe they’re trying to say something to lighten the situation — to bring some laughter to a hard time.

    It is these posts that create the “people are ignoring us and our difficult situation” posts. Seriously, how can we ever try to talk to people and connect with them if we know that no matter what we say (other than, “I’m sorry” — which is still hurtful to some who want people to do more than flip off this simple, ‘insincere’ phrase) it may be turned against us even though no such thoughts or intentions were ever there?

    Just tell people straight out when they wonder at how time flies, that it’s been hard for you, and that you never thought that time would go this slowly during his mission. Everyone’s feelings are valid, and you’ve just shared something of yourself with them and made a step towards a deeper friendship with them.

  10. completely love this post for so many reasons!

    i was recently asked about my mission and i think i surprised everyone when i said it was an amazing experience and built a tremendous foundation for my life – but that it was extremely hard. the time did not fly by for me on my mission!

    i have a friend who’s husband is a contract pilot in afghanistan. he is gone months at a time. she tires of only being asked when he is coming back or when he is here, when does he go again. i hated it when i was single and the first thing everyone asked was, “are you dating anyone?” we need to be less superficial in our associations but that takes really getting to know one another.

    at this stage in my life – trying to have children for three years and not succeeding, what i wish people would stop saying is, “enjoy the sleep while you can!” really? because i am pretty sure i would sacrifice something like sleep to have a baby.

  11. Ah, many thanks to you for your kind comments. Trust me, it’s always scary to share your heart on the internet.

    And strollerblader, you are of course, correct. This IS a whiny post and people are just trying to show interest. From your past comments here, I know you are a wonderful, intelligent, insightful person and I don’t take any offense at what you’ve said. But I do feel like you don’t know me very well. I am not judgmental, I am not unkind, but I do have an enormous heart and I feel things deeply. It’s a handicap to go through life with my heart on my sleeve but my ability to feel deeply for others is also my greatest strength.

    I fully recognize people are just making conversation and I usually say exactly what you’ve suggested. But I do think we could take more care in many of our associations. When I ask questions and let the other person take the lead, I learn of their heart and can share in their pain or their joy.

    One of my favorite essays on missionary mothering comes from Dalene Rowley in the 2008 Segullah journal “Reluctant Sower.” I didn’t reread it before writing this and was surprised at the similar analogies and statements we used. So there must be some sort of universal feeling on the subject.

  12. Just listen Yes, there needs to be a opening comment to start a conversation but the ability to listen and allow the other person to truely express their feeling is a talent and a blesing. My Mother was gifted with this wonderful ability. Many people visited her including myself to have a listening ear knowing she would not judge nor repeat what we said.
    Often the phrases we use in a casual inquiry are not thought out and maybe even inappropriate but are not intended to be hurtful. Please forgive us our less than thoughtful openers and please understand that those of us that do not discuss our emotional needs and feeling in public settings still feeling very deeply and love very strongly. We would love to have a listening friend spend private time with us and let us anwer the question How are you? and how is your boy?

  13. The older I get, the faster time seems to go. The older my children get, it goes even faster. I have said, “I can’t believe how fast it went” to someone else sooo many times, and I NEVER EVER meant I didn’t care about someone…I only mean that time literally seems to speed up once children reach adulthood and hit those major markers: dating/mission/college/marriage/etc. How sad it goes so fast…I miss all these grown up kids being little kids, and that’s all I mean when I say, “wow, two years went fast!” Life flies by…I don’t think anyone is wants to mean to you by saying that. And if they do mean it in a mean way, then they really are jerks and who cares what they think!!

  14. You’re right, it would be nice to get rid of those trite, unhelpful phrases. But I also agree with Strollerblader. If I didn’t use the trite phrases, this is what I would be saying:
    “How wonderful that your son has almost completed his full two year mission instead of having to come home after five months because of illness like mine did!”
    “I’m lonely and would love to connect with you but I only see you for 2 minutes in the hallway after church and I have no time.”
    “I am terribly uncomfortable with small talk and I don’t know what to say, but I wish I did.”
    A wise teacher once taught me that when Christ visited the Nephites, he didn’t ask them to come up and feel his biceps. Rather, he invited them to come feel his wounds. That is how we know and understand each other.
    Perhaps you might find more solace if you more freely shared your own wounds. But don’t expect me to come up to you and rip the band-aid off! I’m hiding my own, and perhaps for good reason.

  15. Too often, I examine situations from every angle by thinking aloud. And I’m not always very good at reading body language or deciphering subtle rebuffs from my interlocutor. Thanks for bringing to light some of the tender spots regarding sending a child out on a mission. (My oldest is 14.) I keep telling myself to listen more than I talk, to practice reflective listening, to validate rather than to challenge, to ask only open ended questions (if I ask any at all) so the person can choose his/her own path for deploying the topic. But all too often my ideals go “poof,” and I come off as an aggressive, nosey, judgemental conversationalist. My ideal is to support, validate, and comfort. But I don’t always reflect that in my choices. Eep! I’ll try to do better. (Sometimes I just detach if I feel like I’m going to “blow it.” Again.)

  16. I love how you write about your son Michelle. I also appreciate that you remember hurtful comments well enough to give specific examples of things better left unsaid. But I do also agree with a lot of what StrollerBlader said.

    From someone who is pretty much always terrified of saying the wrong thing I am one of those that tends to say too little, or nothing at all. I think the ability to listen is a beautiful thing like jennifer r. said, and I think I have that gift, but I lack the connecting gift of being able to give the correct “If you want to open up I have the time and the desire to hear whatever you need to express” opening line.

    I do not think this post was whiny, but I think it is always helpful when observations like this are accompanied by suggestions for what would be good to say. What would make you feel loved and the sacrifice of your son validated? (Also, you mention that you are honest with people who say things that hurt you, thank you for that! I always appreciate people being upfront … )

  17. I just shared one of my wounds, April. And you just stomped on me. I don’t think I’ll tell you about the larger ones. You have no idea of my challenges, of my heart of what I do and don’t share with others.

    I need to walk away from these comments before I bleed to death.

  18. Sorry, Michelle.
    That is why I usually stick with the trite comments, because I don’t have that gift. I didn’t mean to cause you more pain. Again, I apologize.

  19. It’s fine April. And I’m a little embarrassed because I am, as noted, overly emotional. But your apology means a lot to me.

    Perhaps I talk about missing my son because the bigger problems are things I can’t talk about on the internet (though my friends have had an earful). Last month our bishop had all the missionary moms speak in church and I began my talk with “Please don’t say the time is flying by, because I might cry.” At least a dozen people walked up to me afterward and said exactly that– just thinking they were funny. Still, I had far more people (mothers mostly, but a few teary fathers too) thank me for being so honest over the pulpit.

    And as for concrete suggestions, laurenkri, ask questions– where? when? but honestly, my best conversations are when I ask someone, “How are you– really?”

  20. Thank you! My parents are not members of the Church. Although they were against my going on my mission when their painfully shy daughter was still committed to going on a mission, they gave their support. My mom wrote me every week. My little sister who is not a member also wrote me on the scraps of paper at work(where I worked too previous to my mission so I knew of the scraps for notes). It was a hard sacrifice for my family . A member of the Church came to an event at my home prior to my going and told my mom that he missed his son a lot when he was on a mission. I was grateful for his honesty.

  21. My brother and dad wrote too. Didn’t want to leave them out. My brother even sent me a Cherished Teddy figurine that I still cherish. I sent my family a care package of things from the 99 cents store and an ornament that I had engraved that read “from your missionary in PA.” My mission certainly did not fly by. But has it really been so long since I sent that care package?

  22. I’m a frequent reader, but very rare commenter…may I add my 2 cents?
    Michelle, my heart breaks for your tender mama heart. I ALWAYS appreciate honest sharing of thoughts/experiences/feelings amongst my friends.
    It makes me sad that we have so many “culturisms” in the church that make these thoughtless (whether unintended or not) and unhelpful comments the norm.
    Wouldn’t it just be an overall kinder world if we could feel comfortable to really share our true feelings more often instead of feeling the need to slap on those phony/happy faces? In my experience, whatever trial we may be going through, there is someone within our circle of acquaintances who is either going through the same thing or has been through it. Sadly, we too often lack the ability to connect with others and get and/or give the help and support that’s needed….have to keep up those perfect images ya’ know…just makes me sad for all of us.

  23. and Michelle, if I was in your ward, I would definitely ask how you’re doing and want to hear an honest answer….for what it’s worth.
    Hang in there Mama (hug)

  24. This post makes me think about our children growing up. In these days of extended adolescence, I realize that there is a part of us that doesn’t want our children to grow up. It is very hard to let go. Michele has sent her son on a mission because that is a wonderful opportunity for him, but it hurts. My son is only in 7th but I already think about letting him go because someday I want him to find a wonderful wife and I don’t want to be an evil mother in law who insists on holding on to her son because of love. So I already ask myself, will I be able to let go at appropriate times in appropriate ways? It perhaps isn’t just about control, but also about simple preference that I will miss my son so I will want him around and even though he misses me it is better for him to not be there. The big parenting sacrifice is to do what is best for the child, not what is your own selfish desire.
    So am I going to feel that hole for the rest of my life? I guess so. But I am going to have to choose it.
    My parents chose to let me have my own life and I appreciate it.
    That is how I see this post. I will remember this post when I send my children off to college, my children off on missions and my children off to get married. I will acknowledge my sacrifice and choose it because it is what is best for my children. This parenting thing isn’t all roses, it has been hard, hard work from the day I found out I was pregnant, but that is what good moms do. We put up with the discomfort and hope our sacrifice pays off and it is for the good of our child. So I’ll sacrifice two years for their missions and sacrifice living near them for a job that provides for their family or giving a young family space or not harrassing them to spend Christmas with us because they have their own families to take care of.

  25. My experience in taking my children to the MTC and after a program while the family was together, their leaving by one door and the family (me, the mother, especially) leaving by another door felt barbaric. It is barbaric. But of course it is the good choice. I would comfort myself by reminding myself of the mothers who sent sons to war.

  26. I always find it amazing when one person, usually me, says what they are actually feeling and then it seems that the walls come down and the real conversation begins. I call it the Domino Effect. We’re not supposed to miss our missionaries; they’re out there preaching and being taken care of… until we see something that they would have appreciated (a movie, a quote, an animal, whatever). Our callings are the best, most wonderful experiences ever, we’ve never been so spiritually uplifted … until we find out that one of the YW in our charge is pregnant. Once someone says “This is rough” or “This is a trial” other people tend to agree. It’s difficult to maintain a stoic “Life is great!” attitude all the time.
    I think what most people want is validation of how they feel.

  27. I am grateful for the perspective I gained sending out my first missionary, when I first tapped into that paradox of having a heart so full of gratitude that my son had prepared and chosen to serve the Lord, even while it ached from the big gaping hole in it after he left. I realized it was something that went unspoken, which is so isolating. So my mother heart reaches out to yours, Michelle. Of course we cannot miss him with the same depth of feeling you do, but please know he is not forgotten.

    It’s a tricky prospect, reaching out to others, yet, without having been where exactly where they’ve been, not knowing exactly what to say. I have heard every single one of those phrases, and while I know they are almost always said with the very best of intentions, I am also aware of the salt they inadvertently pour into open wounds.

    So many times words fail. Maybe the best words are a big hug and an “I love you.”

    Big hugs, Michelle. I love you.

  28. Interesting to read this today.

    Last night I did a lesson on missionary work for my activity day girls. There are four of them–two are my daughters. They spun a globe to arbitrarily choose a mission location and then made themselves a nametag in the language of their chosen country. We had a snack ala my mission–skyflakes (saltines) and orange crush, poured into a plastic bag and tied around a straw. They worked together, planned who would teach which part and taught me about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Things were going swimmingly.

    Then one girl asked “Can I take my cell phone on my mission?” I said No and that unleased about sixty more questions..”What if I only call my mom late at night after everyone else is asleep?” “What about Father’s Day/4th of July/New Years? Could I call then?” These little girls could totally imagine themselves preaching the gospel across the earth, but could totally and completely not imagine themselves distanced from their mothers.

    I thought about telling them that someday they will be willing to leave their mothers. They will be willing to sacrifice to live the gospel and to grow and become the women they’ll need to be. But I didn’t. I just read them from my mission call where it says that I’d be expected to leave behind ALL of what matters to me for the duration.

    And then today I read this Michelle, and it has made me think that, when the time comes it will probably be easier for my children to leave than it is for me to let go.

  29. I absolutely love your comment, Amos, particularly this:

    “These little girls could totally imagine themselves preaching the gospel across the earth, but could totally and completely not imagine themselves distanced from their mothers.”

  30. I think it’s wonderful that you miss your son and that the rest of the family feels his absence. I didn’t feel that from my parents or my siblings when I went to college or when I was on a mission. It would have made me feel good to know that people cared about me and missed having me around.

  31. Nine years ago my husband took my two oldest away for the weekend. I went downstairs, lay on one of their beds and bawled. It was the first of many crying jags–whenever they left for scout camp, etc. Now that we are down to less than a year before our oldest flies the coop, I am starting to get a little panicky, wondering how catatonic (and for how long) I will be when they leave. Part of me tries not to think about it, another part tries not to feel guilty for all the things I wish I’d said or done but didn’t over the years but now we are almost out of time. And still another part of me (the best part?) tries to hold it all in and forget about the past and just go forward. When I read this post today, it fed into those 2nd two parts. First I cried. Then I prayed. And then I made a plan for these last months. (Basically, just taking him out to eat once a month–which for us is a big deal since we hardly ever eat out.) Just want to say thanks to you Michelle for inspiring me and motivating me to make the most of our time in this way.

  32. Oh, Michelle, I remember you saying something like this a while back, and I thought, “I must be careful. I’m sure I’ve said something like this sometime to someone who was hurting.” I appreciate having my attention brought to something I had never considered before. This is one reason I love Segullah. I love real life being laid out for us to consider when too often we smile and say “Things are fine” when we see each other in the halls. I think because of many of these learning experiences, I am more aware of the aching hearts behind the smiles in Relief Society.

    My friend’s daughter died tragically a few weeks ago. I was blown away by how many people said “She has a special mission on the other side” or “Heavenly Father must have really needed her” on her Facebook (!) wall (seriously?). I knew they meant well, and I’m sure she did, too, but that is one of those sayings that I know does not help the grieving family.

    I agree with the commenters who have said that expressing love and asking questions can often be one of the best ways to show care and concern.

    And I’m sorry that you still have five more months. (That’s so long!!!) I have learned to love Ben just through your blog, and I know the hole in your home is enormous with him gone.

    Much love to you. Your tender heart is a gift to those around you.

  33. I am sitting here after reading your post and all the comments, crying. Obviously this hit a nerve.

    My daughter came home from her mission almost two months ago. I missed her EVERY single day that she was gone. I think I cried every time I wrote her an email. My mother heart felt like it was going to explode. I finally told people to not ask how she was unless they wanted to see me cry. She served a terrific mission. I can see the tremendous growth in her. It is good to have her home, but I do know she doesn’t really appreciate all the questions about what her plans are now and if she’s found her eternal mate yet. She graduated from college before she left on her mission and it was a surprise to us when she decided to go. I saw the end and the beginning of many things in our family. So many changes. She came home to a married sister with a baby, and her other sister in college now.

    Speaking of the younger sister, who turned 19 just after general conference…I wish people would stop asking her if she’s going on a mission or telling her she should go. I think these kids that are in the crosshairs of this new policy right now, need some time to think. She thought she had a while before she even needed to think about a mission. Now it’s thrust upon her. I can’t even begin to express how stressful that is to her.

    If I knew you personally I would give you a hug, missionary mom to missionary mom. It’s a tough gig, to be the mom of a missionary!

  34. Wow! A timely article for me. My 19 year old son goes to the MTC in just 12 days. I’m thrilled for him, scared for him (a little bit) and I know I will miss him terribly. None of my other kids get my puns or jokes like he does. None of my other kids read books I like as much as he does. No one else criticizes my cooking like he does. All of this is compounded by the fact that my mom is nearly 87 years old and will likely have been reunited with my dad on the other side before he returns home. It’s made me a bit grumpy and I don’t like feeling this way.

    I had a little conversation with Heavenly Father right after he got his call. It went something like this, “Father, you can have him for two years but please know he is a big part of my heart and it will be hard to have him gone.” The answer, ” I know. I will take care of him.” Who can argue with that?

    I served a mission. Now I know how my mom felt. She is an incredibly brave woman. I’m hoping that I can be brave too. I know I will get through the next two years and he will too. I try to remind myself that he will be a different and BETTER person on the other end.

  35. Oh my. Thank you for all of your comments (even the ones who didn’t like this post!). I have more to say than anyone could possibly want to read but I’ll type it out anyway.

    First, anon, I am so sorry. I know exactly how you feel. I didn’t come from a family with a lot of love and perhaps that’s why I’m such a fierce and devoted mother bear. One of the missionaries my son knows has a family who doesn’t write to him much and never expresses missing him. And while I think people might think that attitude is ‘righteous’ or ‘strong’ people need to know they are missed and remembered. After all, Christ pleads with us to remember Him, to remember our blessings.

    I’ve really appreciated those of you who’ve mentioned other hurtful cliches. I’ll be quoting you for a long time, Andrea R. We can all be a little more gentle with each other.

    Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I’ve used all these same cliches in the past. My fifteen year old said yesterday how much he hates the statement, “S/he’s serving his mission on the other side.” when a child dies. I realized he’s been raised with several of my friends whose children have died. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have known that was a hurtful cliche at fifteen. But I’m learning now, and hopefully growing a little kinder every year.

    And for those of you who’ve offered hugs, I’m collecting next time I see you!

  36. I think during very sensitive times….waiting for our missionary son definitely being one….we may hear what is not meant at all. I think it would be far more sad if people didn’t say anything. I think sometimes we are so afraid of offending, that we stay silent, and that is not good either.

  37. And furthermore…..(my battery was dying so I had to quickly send that last message without finishing). I’m glad you brought this subject to light because I see I have been saying the very thing to others that has caused you pain. Like my mother always use to say, if it bothers one person then it most likely bothers lots of people. So I have learned how to be a bit more sensitive to missionary moms, thanks to you. I’m certain I needed this lesson.

  38. Ah, Grandma Honey, your comments are always wonderful and you’ve helped me see something. Now I understand why some of the commenters were bothered. I have never been offended by someone who offers a cliched comment and I don’t think any of the other mothers here are saying that. I know they mean well. It’s like having an open wound and someone brushes against it– you wish they wouldn’t but you know they didn’t try to hurt you.

  39. Wow. This has been an interesting conversation. I know my mom wrote me every week while I was on my mission. But my dad only wrote me once after I wrote a letter begging for one. I’m pretty sure I got a couple letters from 2 of my 4 sisters, but not from my 3 brothers. So I don’t really wonder why I have a problem connecting to my kids as well as I’d like. It is something I work on. Michelle, I love that you are fiercer at that connection because you lacked it. I want to be, but feel at a loss sometimes without a better pattern to follow.

    My oldest son has been on his mission just over 3 months. I have his photo as my phone wallpaper. I count my days from Mondays when we email him. Every couple weeks we have the whole family make him cards and drawings and we send them to him. I’ve sent him a care package and even brought him a homemade cake while he was in the MTC because I was in Ut for my dad’s funeral.

    I have joked that I wouldn’t notice that much of a difference with him gone since he has spent less and less time at home since he could drive, including 2 semesters in college.

    And the truth is, I miss having him near physically, but feel he is closer spiritually now. His letters to his siblings are sweet and supportive. I think this sacrifice has. helped all of us grow closer. In my ward we are very close and don’t put on perfect faces. We are pretty good at reaching out to each other. We have a facebook page where we reach out. Almost as close as Segullah! But this is still my go to spot to examine and share my heart.

    I am grateful for all I’m learning and hope I learn not to be careless with my response to others pain.

  40. My mom died while my youngest brother was on his mission. Time did not fly by for us.

    Over the years I’ve had a ton of trite comments directed to me- that happens when it takes over ten years to get pregnant. I’ve developed a thicker skin than I used to have, but sometimes these comments still sneak in and they hurt. So I try to watch what I say…not asking who is planning on a mission at 18 hasnt been too hard, as two of my brothers didn’t serve and I remember how people asking them about missionary service wasn’t helpful.

  41. I can sympathize with what is being said here because I have had a child on a mission.

    I guess we’re not perfect yet and we get our feelings hurt; or take offense when none is intended; or say silly comments when we don’t know what to say or just plain feel that way and said it. But aren’t we all trying to become Christ like and one of the things we should all do is try to be compassionate to all people, especially when we know were people are coming from.

    When mt son was on his mission, I never really expected anybody else to miss him like I did, he is my baby! nobody will ever miss him like I do or did. Life went on as usual for the rest of the people in church or at work or around me, even though it didn’t for me (People at work [non-mormons] said the same things, isn’t that just human), but we expect too much of people at church, like somehow they are not humans that make mistakes or say dumb things without meaning to.

    I have also said to people the same knuckle-headed (not insincere) comment that I felt that time flew by when they told me their child was coming home, because to me it seemed so, even though to that person it didn’t, but mostly I was happy their child was coming back home and no hurt was intended.

    I think many a time we are sensitive because of the situation we are going through and project it on to others.

    It’s like facebook. Sometimes you write something on your status that had no secondary meaning or intention and then people comeback commenting mean things about what you wrote, when nothing was further from the truth. It’s because they see things from a different point of view and sometimes even according to what mood (angry, tired, critical, hurt)they were in at the time.

    More love and compassion will go a long way. It’s very hard to try and watch everything you say at all times because people are very different, I try to be sensitive to people’s feelings and needs, but it’s all very relative and can be exhausting. Things will be said that are not meant to hurt anyone, and people or feelings will be hurt when not hurt was intended. Let’s forgive each other our weaknesses, because as the Lord said: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone….”

  42. Your post made me want to cry. My daughter has been gone almost 10 months…and I’m agonizing because I miss her. The time just goes by like it wants….slow when I think about it. And now my 19 yr old d wants to leave by March…it will probably be April or May at this point. they will not see each other for almost 3 years…and I’m starting get weepy about that too. Lucky for me I was online last week and today when she posted and we got to email back and forth for a few minutes. Thankfully there are some great members in my ward who write to all the missionaries.

  43. I have difficulty in social interactions. If I say something stupid, pease forgive me. It’s a miracle I’ve found the courage to speak with people at all.

    Forgive me and the other social morons. We already have zero friends and more disdain from socially gifted people like you is making us feel suicidal.

  44. Michelle, I’m glad you wrote about this. I’m guilty of saying this to pretty much every relative of a missionary ever!

    I had no idea that there was anything offensive about this statement until you pointed it out. I’m glad to know what could be considered offensive. Not being a naturally empathetic person (or sympathetic, for that matter), the only way I learn to not put my foot in my mouth is by people telling me things like this. So thank you.

  45. As the girl who gets the “oh you’ll marry a stripling warrior” comments ad nauseam, I just wanted to say that I get it. And I simply cannot wait until March…the reunion will be so sweet!

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