Thursday, March 3, 2011
not even close...
Healthy birds leave the nest.
We all know that. Nature tells us this is true.
Parents that successfully launch their offspring out into
the world should feel that that have done their jobs well.
For most kids, college is that first big step toward adulthood.
You pack them off with lamps and laptops, a car usually
and the knowledge that you will see them soon and hopefully
fairly often provided their school is reasonably close.
If nothing else, you count the days until Christmas and other
school breaks. And there is email, texting and phone calls
to help you keep in touch. You keep their room intact for those
treasured visits. You might even visit them for a game or
special event. Still, there are lonely, sad times. Letting go is hard.
But what happens when your high school senior signs on the
dotted line and becomes property of the U. S. Navy?
For me, initially there was great excitement! And I am still excited
and happy for Ian~ proud of him for making this commitment
at 18 years of age. He has qualified for and signed up for one
of the most challenging educational programs in the military,
the Navy's nuclear propulsion program. His schooling will be
approximately 2 years. And that is 2 years of long, intense classes
followed by mandatory study hours and other Navy duties.
It's a tough school and upon successful completion of this program
Ian will spend the following 4 years working on a nuclear reactor
on an aircraft carrier. He is then obligated to 2 years of Navy
Reserves, or he can, of course, re-enlist.
Now, this is what he knowingly signed up for. It is an amazing opportunity
for which we are extremely grateful. I will send him off with some (okay, LOTS)
of tears, but also with pride and joy that he is embarking on this great adventure.
And the moms that are sending their kids off to college feel these emotions, too.
But, I can't help but think about how this is so not the same in the following ways...
#1~ Can't quit! ~ Getting out of the military before you have completed your term
of service is not easy and will often haunt you (if you have a less than honorable discharge).
If you decide, along the way, that you're not cut out for the military~ oh, well. Nor is is it easy
to change your rate (job). The Navy spends time and money to train you in a certain field
because they need you in that job. Choose carefully. So unlike a college kid, there is no quitting, changing schools or majors, or taking a break. Military lesson #1~ persevere.
#2~ Contact is limited. ~ In bootcamp, recruits get to make a FEW phone calls. The first one is a 30 second "I got here alive." call made upon their arrival at RTC (Recruit Training Command). Then, there is NO communication for approx. 3 weeks, during which time you know your child is being yelled at, sleep-deprived and intensely physically and mentally challenged. No college fun. No cellphone. No parties. No calling home.
After the first 3 weeks your recruit can write letters on Sundays and there may be a FEW short phone calls in the following weeks. Depending on your child's rate, often contact is limited when your child is deployed. This can be for security and also logistics play into this.
#3~Your child will not live under your roof again~ One of the things that I've heard from other Navy moms is that you should go through your child's room with them before they leave for bootcamp. The fact is, they will not be living with you again. I seriously doubt that Ian is going to come home from 6 years of active duty military life (much of it on a ship going all over the world) and want to fall back into his high school bedroom with Halo posters and some Legos under the bed. If so, we're going to need to have a little chat!
#4~ The d-word~ Military life is dangerous. Period. Ian will be on an aircraft carrier all snuggled up to a
nuclear reactor. He will visit ports all over the world. And everyone in the world does not love Americans.
Here is an example from today's news. This is not something any military parent or spouse likes to think
about, but it is there.
These are certainly not the all the reasons that military service and college are different, but these are the ones on my mind today. Ian CHOSE this and we back him up 100%, but it still makes a mom's heart ache.
It is going to be a challenge to let my child grow up this quickly and this completely.
So I tell myself~ Healthy birds do indeed fly... or sail away.
And when they do go, to college, to work, to sea~ they carry our hearts and our support
with them always. ♥