Hey there Navy Moms! First of all, I want to express my high respect for anyone that has served in the military and am extremely thankful for your service and all of our brave kids out there serving our country. Also, this site has been incredibly useful to me and I would not have survived without it. Thank you Navy moms!
I've considered blogging for a while now, I just wasn't sure where to start. My son enlisted in the Navy a year ago, so I'm a newbie. Do I have anything worthwhile to say? I recently read "Rise Up Military Moms" by Elaine Brye and boy does that woman have wisdom to share. She has four kids in the military, high level ranks and have all been in war zones. Her strength & vision for her kids is truly wide open faith. I don't know how she has coped, she is a warrior and sounds like an incredible woman! So in comparison I feel very green, and a bit inadequate to express what I've learned in my brief experience as a Navy parent.
I guess the best place to start would be the beginning. Like most moms we all have dreams and high hopes for our kids. I had a specific dream for my kid that can still be fulfilled, however in the beginning I did not see it this way. Through my journey a a new military parent the best way I can describe myself in a word was "fearful."
Fear took root when my son came home for Christmas break of his Freshman year of college. I noticed he was skirting around talking to us about something, he seemed outwardly & internally restless. I finally pinned him down and asked, "what is up?" He said, "I don't know what I want to do when I grow up. I don't want to sit behind a desk. I don't want to be inside, studying all the time." He sounded like a typical Freshman. We all know that first year of college sucks! He said, "I don't want to go to college, get a degree, get married, have a couple kids and live on a cul-de-sac. That's not me!" My husband and I blew him off and immediately said you are NOT dropping out of school! And whats wrong with living on a cul-de-sac?? Another week passed by and he popped off "I'm just going to join the military." This time he had our attention. Not only was this shock to our ears because he never mentioned it before, but also because of our sons personality. A little seed of fear was planted that day.
This is the child that cried when he got a yellow light in first grade. The kid that pretty much follows the rules, but hates any type of conforming. In high school when he was in Athletics he called the football players try-hards. He didn't understand their passion, why was everyone yelling? LOL! His senior year he had hair to his shoulders, never wore shoes or a watch....smart, philosophical, kind, yet aloof. He is our hippie child! I thought he was popping off to vent frustration. He finally burst it out and said,
"I've met with a recruiter & I'm doing this!" The fear seed was literally plunged with water!
Fear, when it comes to our kids it can be like a was like a bolder dropping from a 60 foot cliff right on your heart. All I knew about the military was that is was hard. I mean, Bootcamp alone is freaking hard! It was for people with grit!! My son is a not a wimp by any means, but deep down I feared he didn't have what it would take to persevere, and mainly did he understand the magnitude of committing to the US NAVY??!!
Besides, our dream and expectation for him to complete college was something we drilled in him since he was born. Why was it such a big deal to us? Please let me explain. I guess for us (his parents) we personally know the struggle that's involved with not having a degree. We had our son right out of high school. We graduated in May, got married in June. He was born in November. It was so much work, and a lot to deal with at a young age. I was convinced the magic formula was to get your degree, do things right! Anybody with me? Thankfully his dad & I are still together and crazy about each other, married 21 years. Woohoo! My husband completed his Masters in Nursing a few years ago. Our road was difficult!! I know deep down I had so many of my own regrets, that I desperately tried to keep him on the course of his dreams. (or my dreams) I didn't want him to run from college when things were just about to get easier. I felt he would regret leaving school to join the military, and then we wouldn't be able to fix it. Fear. It was in full bloom.
Don't we all dream our kids will do better than us?? I saw my son joining the military as a negative path because I thought it was derailing his dreams and goals. I couldn't see it as something right for him. I played devil's advocate to persuade him to rethink his decision. What if this was another hippie whim? Like when he wanted to take Karate, then he tried guitar and skate boarding. The military wasn't a new hobby to test. It would be his life for the next few years.
We asked him to finish out his Freshman year and allow us to research every single aspect so he could make an intelligent decision. We set him up with an old Navy friend of mine that had just retired and asked him to shoot him straight. With all the info (good,bad & ugly) he still made the decision to enlist. At that point, his dad and I decided in order for him to fulfill his oath to the US Navy we needed to get on board with this military thing and be his best cheerleaders, and that's exactly what we did! But deep down my "momma heart" was so afraid of how all this would pan out... My son survived boot camp, like most of our kids do and I decided during those long eight weeks that instead of begrudgingly surviving through this whole military journey I needed to dream a "new" dream for my son in the Navy. My fears needed to be laid to rest or at least at ease. It wasn't easy, it just had to be done! I could not live that way and I had allowed my mind to be consumed with doubt, worry, anxiety and most of all I missed my son so very much. Not sure I'll ever get over that part. That's a whole other blog.
I read the comments online and the running theme is that we are all slightly afraid. It is masked differently in all of us. We are in unknown territory and it is a whirlwind trying to learn everything we need to know about our kids joining this amazing, BIG Navy! Even though it has been very challenging at times I have seen so much personal growth in my son. I know now it was right for him. He has learned more in the past year than he ever learned on a college campus. He would have never discovered his inner strength unless he did something uncomfortable to satisfy that inner restlessness when he was 19. That shy boy with a heart of gold is still in there, but now he is a man! And guess what? He has opportunities! The sky is the limit! I will be the first to admit I was wrong with my tunnel vision thinking...
Becoming a military mom is scary. Please know this, you are not alone if you feel afraid. Some of you have lived this life way longer than me. Let's be real, we have ALL felt the military leave a mark on our life. It is not easy giving our loved ones over, EVER!! That takes wide open faith. This quote from Rise Up Military Moms rings true for me to this day.
"The only way to deal with your fear is to face it and PUSH through it." Elaine Brye
I found a new dream with faith over fear. God has a bigger dream for my son than even I do! How cool is that!