Dear Sue Ellen,
My husband is an officer in the military. I grew up in a military home. My son is talking about joining the military as soon as he graduates from high school. You would think I’d support my son’s decision to follow in his Dad’s and Grandad’s footsteps, but I am in a panic over it. I don’t want him to join. I want him to go to college instead. What should I tell him? Don’t my feelings matter in his decision?
Dear Military Mom,
There have been two times in my life when I’ve had an asthmatic attack. Only two. The first time was when I put my 5 year old son on the school bus for his first day of kindergarten, and the second time was when I put my 18 year old son on the bus for his Army basic training.
I think the majority of Moms would agree that our separation anxiety is a much more intense experience than the separation anxiety our children feel on their first day of school, or their first day of boot camp. It is really strange. We give birth to these totally vulnerable humans and immediately begin preparing them to become independent people who will someday walk away from us and start a life of their own. Some Moms become overly clingy and clip the wings of their children as they strive to become adults. Other Moms become aloof and let their children flounder as they seek their place in the world. There are Mom’s that struggle with their own identity when their grown children walk out the door for the last time, and come back to visit as self-sufficient young adults. It’s all very confusing.
To answer your question; if I were in your shoes, I would tell your son the right thing. But what is the right thing? The right thing is whatever your son needs to hear from you that is honest and will support him growing into a strong, emotionally healthy adult. Here is the hardest part: your conversation with him isn’t about you at all. It’s about him.
I have the greatest respect for military families. I have heard the stories about challenges they face and the strength they demonstrate during times of hardships; such as deployments, frequent moves and battle scars. After I read your email, I understood why you may hesitate for your family to enter the third generation of the military lifestyle. No wonder you may want something different for your son. But the truth is, the decision is his and not yours. Your job is to stand by him no matter what.
To all you military families out there… I love you! Thank you for the sacrifices you make for me and all Americans. I know there are countless ways that you put yourselves aside for the greater good of our country. God bless you!
Please email your parenting questions to firstname.lastname@example.org and put “Parent’s Corner on the subject line.