Sixteen years ago I stood on Tecumseh Court at the US Naval Academy and watched my Plebe take his oath to defend and protect. At least I thought it was him. But he looked surprisingly like so many of his class mates in the Class of 2005 that I might have been confused. Perhaps you have read my book “Be Safe, Love Mom: A Military Mom’s Stories of Courage, Comfort, and Surviving Life on the Homefront “.
In the first section, I describe that momentous day when I became a military mom. Despite all my years as a military kid, married to the military , and military training I was absolutely blown away by watching the transformation of my son. Later on I would do it two more times as his sister and brother both became Plebes. And let me tell you, just like deployments ( my kids have done 12 of them now) it does not get easier. As I look back tears can still well up in my eyes as I remember the solemnity and the uncertainty of the moment. I was so proud and so worried at the same time. Would he have what it takes? Did he make the right decision? And how would I fill the empty space he left behind?
These questions are perennial for any mom who is sending off her child-her most precious child-to military training. Whether it is a service academy , officer candidate School or basic training the immediate feeling is a sense of loss of control. Because as you will be reminded over and over, the military issues everything they need and mothers are not an issued item. How do you adjust to the this new paradigm while your child is tested and tried in a very difficult training regime?
- Trust the process. The military has been training the best service members in the world for many years. They know what works. Remember they are helping your child become his or her best self. I sent them my diamonds and they were cut and shaped to shine, even if it was painful for me and them.
- You want it to be hard. One of the ways I sleep (sort of) at night is knowing they have been prepared for what they will face. I don’t want to add “Can they handle it?” to my worries. I know they are the best they can be. My confidence in their ability gives me great peace of mind.
- They are following their calling. Sacrificing self for all is a noble cause that they have chosen. How can I get in their way? When the going gets tough I remind myself how much they prepared for this calling. My job is to stand behind them and support them no matter what. I have to be braver than my kids to let them go into harm’s way.
If you are a Naval Academy parent let me give you some focused advice. Plebe summer is basically 40 days. You and your child can do anything for 40 days. Later on deployments will last 6 months or more. You and your Plebe will learn to endure lack of communication. This is a critical lesson as you let go of your child to military service.
When you find yourself starting to go into uber momma mode ( trust me I know it well), remind yourself that part of this training is for them to figure it out. They need to learn to navigate new personalities, how to use chain of command, and take care of their responsibilities. You cannot help with any of this. They will be incommunicado. Remind yourself that they are the capable, great kids you know they are and you have raised them to soar. ” NO news is good news”, “My kid has go this”, “He/she is following their dream” are mantras you can repeat as often as necessary. Find a way to burn off excess energy -walk , run , swim, garden, paint or my personal favorite-knit. Find other moms who understand. We know what it is like-and it is not like sending a civilian kid to college.
At the end of Induction Day take a deep breath and think forward ten years. Imagine where they might be and what they may be doing. My Marine Major flies the FA/18 that he dreamt of as a young boy. My Navy LT is proud to have deployed multiple times and served this nation in the air and on the sea. And my daughter is thrilled to be a real life rocket scientist. Dreams came true in the sweat (theirs) and tears (mine) of Plebe Summer.
Welcome the Class of 2021 -and that includes all of you no matter what the branch. Lock arms with me and join the Sisterhood of Military Moms, fueled by pride and chocolate.Thank you for your service too!
I Day 2003-back in the day when I was a brunette before I earned my white (grey) hair.