There I was frantically trying to complete the grocery checkout process. I had one in the cart, two clinging onto me -or at least they were supposed to be doing that instead of fingering gum in the racks-and one in the front pack on my chest. In desperation I had already broken open the pack of string cheese as the cashier seemed to be in slow motion. It was past naptime and it was like a ticking time bomb. Just as the baby began to wail and I noticed a puddle forming beneath one of the boys at my feet, a woman next to me smiled and said, ” Oh , you are going to miss these days.” I smiled a sickly smile as urine soaked into my tennis shoes and thought, “Right. If I ever survive I will.”
Fast forward twenty or so years and it is Plebe Summer, the Naval Academy version of boot camp, and I am beyond myself with worry. Will he/she make it? Do they have enough food/blankets/underwear? When will I hear from them again? Are the Detailers (DIs) too mean? Will this ever end? And a parent of graduating Firstie told me “You are going to miss this.” And once again I thought that perhaps they were getting senile. How in the world could I ever want to do this again?
We know the rest of the story. I have done it not once but four times in different versions. And truth be told this past weekend at the United States Military Academy I met a lot of West Point Moms. I wanted to tell each of them, You are gonna miss this. You will miss these training days when you know where your child is each night, when you know when you will get a phone call, when you can be sure that no one is going to hurt them. There will be a schedule that can be followed (sort of), and they do come home for holidays unless they have really messed up.
Of course in the midst of it the worries seemed big. But in hindsight-oh I wish I was worrying about exams and order of merit again. I wish it was service selection, and who was going to be the next roommate. Now I wait for phone calls that don’t come and receiving an email is a cause for a celebration. I don’t know what they are doing or where they are, and I don’t care as long as I don’t see their name in print.
“Mom, you don’t need to worry about us-we are grown warriors now. We fly jets through the air. We can land helos on a roof and launch a satellite into orbit. We can con an aircraft carrier through a harbor with ease. We protect you now.” Yes but I remember when you had to hold my hand in the parking lot and I kept you safe. And I do miss that. I miss that a lot.