My Life as a Mom: Rebel Rebel
The Way of the World
Then, as a high school junior, Hayes announced his plan to shoot for a nomination to the U.S. Naval Academy. My mother was thrilled. For the erstwhile hitchhiker vegetarian, it was a bit of a shock.
As I talked it over with friends I saw that Hayes was typical of a whole slice of his generation, rebelling against their Deadhead parents by becoming clean-cut, upstanding members of the establish establishment. Bankers. Military recruits. If there's one thing we flower-power people had to notice, it was the fact that our kids were doing just what we did -- that is, whatever would most horrify their elders.
It is the way of the world.
And so, as Hayes embarked on the arduous process of securing a nomination to the academy, I continued to follow my mother's example and hung in there with him. As he filled out applications, wrote letters, took physical exams, and made long drives to see congressmen around the state, I just kept proofreading and taking his suit to the cleaners. Then the two of us visited Annapolis with my mother and great-uncle (an alum in the '40s) and attended the Navy-Rice game. As the cadets marched onto the football field in full dress uniform at halftime, my mother had tears on her cheeks. Hayes was rapt.
It was never going to be my cup of tea but I could see what inspired Hayes about the institution -- the male bonding, the ideals of duty, honor and loyalty -- and though I was and am something of a peacenik I was ready to let him go. So a few months later, when the minor scoliosis condition I had noted on his medical form disqualified him from service, even after he scored the nomination, I was tormented. Had I sabotaged my son's dreams?
Hayes was surprisingly forgiving about what he viewed as my honest mistake. Or maybe it wasn't that surprising, since the knack for forgiving and accepting the people you love hasn't skipped any generations in this family.
A few years later the boy is a sophomore at Georgetown, where he's rowing crew and studying international business. He drives a vintage Saab, wears Top-Siders, and is still dating the girl he fell in love with in ninth grade. He still cares deeply about duty and honor, still views the Naval Academy with a touch of awe.