I remember when our daughter first talked about going into the military. She was still in high school and it terrified me. One of her friends was enlisting in the Air Force, and she was thinking about going in as well. I was worried about having a child in the military. Our first hurdle would be military boot camp.
Fear Vs. Reality – When Your Child Joins the Military
I admit I didn’t want her to go. I’m sure that there are parents out there who jump for joy when their child announces their desire to enlist. Personally, I couldn’t do that.
I could not picture our daughter, who in high school and beyond still wore bows and flowers in her hair going into the military. All I could imagine was her running around waving a rifle in the air singing that line from Full Metal Jacket,” This is my rifle, this is my gun, one is for shooting, one is for fun.”
Not a happy thought, though kind of a funny one.
Flowers In Her Hair
When she went to enlist she was wearing a flower clipped into her hair. That is who she is, and she isn’t going to change for anyone for any reason. I like that about her. The strength she shows in maintaining who she wants to be.
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Worrying Doesn’t Change Anything
We always worry about our kids. That is never going to change. We worry when they first go to school and how the other kids will influence them. We stress when they hit puberty in Jr. High and their personality changes like the weather.
We take worrying and try to turn it into an Olympic sport. There is nothing we won’t worry about when it comes to our kids. If we can’t find anything to worry about, we worry about that.
Yeah! Being a parent is just loaded with perks and benefits and never-ending fun. But of course, we would never trade it for anything.
Setting Aside Your Fears
Which in my roundabout way brings me back to your child going into the military. You worried when they told you about it, didn’t you? Come on admit it; we are all friends here. You worried, and that is ok because I was utterly terrified.
We do come to realize that we can not protect our kids from life, no matter how hard we try. Often we pretend that what we do puts a spell around them and keeps them safe. The truth is we know we can’t, but trying helps us to feel better.
You Taught Them Right From Wrong
We know what keeps them safer, teaching them to make good decisions, to pay attention to what is around them and not be stupid. Not being stupid is the hardest part. Humans must have a stupid gene we have not found yet. Hell people making bad decisions is what keeps the Internet going. Can you imagine the world without videos of people doing assinine things on YouTube? Scary thought, right?
So we try and teach our kids to do the right thing and make smart decisions. Yet when it comes to them joining the military, why does that not seem like the right decision? I will tell you why, because the choice they made scares us.
The critical question is, why does it scare us?
The obvious answer would seem to be because we fear our child going off to war. And that is so very true. But I think it is more about the loss of control for a parent.
I know we have not had “control” of them since they hit the teenage years, but we have always been there for them if something goes wrong. We can no longer do that. They are well and truly on their own in the military. We can not help fix their mistakes; we can’t stop someone from yelling at them or make sure they are getting enough to eat and enough sleep.
You can not even talk to your child while they are in Basic Military Training (BMT) or what we use to call Military Boot Camp.
While we are proud of them for going, this loss of control is also one of the hardest things to accept about them joining. Maybe for them and you, this will be the first time in their lives they are 100 percent responsible for their own actions.
Military Boot Camp: Basic Military Training
BMT may be their first real interaction with the military. When your child arrives at BMT, they will be facing a strange environment, people yelling at a bunch of scared and confused kids. Think of a kindergarten program but at a much louder and angrier volume.
Do you think I am kidding about it being like kindergarten? I am not; ask your child when they graduate, they will have spent way to much time teaching them the difference between Right and Left.
They Will Finally Listen
Your child will run through a gauntlet of people telling them what to do and how to do it. How to walk, talk, eat, sleep, breath, run, dress, etc, etc, etc. This list goes on and on. All those things that you wanted to yell at your child about when they were growing up? Well, feel-good knowing someone is now doing this for you and your child is listening!
Drown Them With Letters, Not Tears
Now, while all this is going on for your child, you are sitting at home worrying. Put some of that time to use and write your child some letters. Write lots of messages! Be that parent that when you go to their graduation all the kids that are with your child look at you and wish their parents would have written that much.
We made sure to send our daughter a letter a day, and we were not the parents that wrote the most! Not only did it help her to know we were supporting her, but it also helped us to feel better. Don’t expect letters back; they are literally to busy to write back. Your messages to them will help, so write lots.
There is Good News
The good news for all of us is, you and your child will survive this time. The military will force them to grow up a little faster, but I will tell you a little secret here, they are still your child. The time they spent at BMT will not have turned them into bloodthirsty killing machines.
What they will have learned is that they are capable of more than they thought. They will have learned the importance of working as a team, and have a new found belief in themselves, and none of those are bad things.
Prepare for Graduation
This time they are in BMT will feel like a long time; You will be looking forward to seeing them again. So plan for their graduation. If you can go to their graduation, we highly recommend you go.
If you do go, get there early, you are going to be competing with many other parents, spouses, boyfriends, girlfriends, and friends just as anxious to see their particular person graduate.
The Same But Different
Seeing your child marching in a military graduation parade is an amazing experience that will more than likely leave you with a tear in your eye, or in our case, lots of tears. While they are still your child, things will have changed for them.
They will be walking different, talking different and acting differently. Pride in themselves and in what they have accomplished will be showing, be proud of who they are and what they have accomplished.
Public Display of Affection (PDA)
When you finally get the chance to see them and talk to them, you are going to want to hug them and not let go. Be aware that the military frowns on public displays of affection, they make a few exceptions, graduations being one of them, but keep your physical contact brief to keep them out of trouble! Prepare to spend lots of time just staring at your child, noticing the changes in them and just enjoying seeing them again.
Just the Beginning
Being a parent has been all about change. From infant to toddler to school, adolescence and young adult. Your child in the military will be about change as well. Seeing them graduate from BMT will be a fantastic experience. But then it is on to technical training school so that they can learn all about their field in the military. And after that? Well, they can be going anywhere in the world.
Here There And Everywhere
The United States Military is not only one of the largest fighting forces in the world, but they are also a peacekeeping force, and help out with disaster relief worldwide. The job of the United States military seems never-ending, and as such you never know where your child is going to end up.
They may get stationed overseas, all the way across the country from you or on another part of the continent. They now will go where they are ordered to go, whether they or you, like it. Welcome to life with the military.
And You Thought BMT Was Hard
Separation can be one of the hardest parts about your child joining the military. The long periods of time that you are not able to see them is painful. From being in another country or on the other side of the continent, not being able to physically interact with them can be hard.
But like with all things there are ways to deal with this. If they get stationed at a base within the United States, cell phones make it easy to stay in touch, whether this is through voice calls or using video chat.
If they are stationed at a base overseas, as long as they have an Internet connection, they can use video chat to stay connected, without costing them or you an arm and a leg.
Deployments And Staying Strong
The absolute hardest part of your child serving in the military is going to be when they get deployed, Your child in an active war zone is not what most of us wanted. You will worry about them daily, and once again question their decision to join the military.
You may get mad at our government for involving our country in a war, even if six months ago you supported the war.
All these feelings and thoughts are natural during this time. The most important thing for you to do is to support your child. They are going to be in a different country during a time of war, scared and more than likely not living in ideal conditions.
They will need your support during and after their deployment. You have been their support their entire life, keep doing that now.
Your child has chosen what can be a hard, but rewarding path to follow. To serve and protect their country in any way required of them. I don’t know about you, but having a child choose to serve in the military makes us very proud.
Honor them by being as supportive of them during this time as you have been their whole lives.
Do you have a child serving in the military? How have you coped with the transition? Leave us a comment below or email and let us know of your experiences.