When folks say “thank you for your service” to my son, an army second lieutenant, it is much appreciated….by his mother. Having a child in the military is an adjustment. When your baby goes off to college we, as mothers and fathers, weep and miss those long-lost days of handholding and hugs. It’s heart-wrenching to drive away as your coed begins his or her life without you to guide them each day.
But when the tears subside and you acclimate to a quieter house, you realize it’s ok, maybe even nice to chat or text with your child daily and see them every few weeks. Though when your son or daughter signs up to serve our country, it’s a whole new level of cutting the cord.
When Your Teen Signs Up for Military Service
Depending on the branch of the service your child joins, basic training or boot camp will last from seven to twelve weeks. Say goodbye to the boy/ girl you know, because when you next see him at graduation, he will be ultra-respectful—“sir” and “ma’am” are now ingrained in his vocabulary.
Those weeks are a time of immense training and growth for recruits, while difficult for moms and dads who can mostly only communicate the old-fashioned way, snail mail. However, the pages and pages of handwritten letters detailing his days will be treasures that you wouldn’t have if he were away living in a dorm simply texting you.
Unlike many who unpack their bags at their parent’s home after graduation, the soldier will get his orders and could be stationed anywhere in the world. This is the hardest part. The U.S. government is your child’s boss. He can’t take vacation whenever he wants. He can’t live wherever he’d like. Family parties, vacations and holidays are now events where you will be missing your child.
Difficult as these things may be, the upside is you will see your son or daughter flourish and mature into a person you couldn’t imagine. Self-sufficient. Hard-working. Adept. Independent. Confident. And employed when many of his peers are not!
Responding to people’s reactions when they learn my son is in the army has become a teaching moment for me. The first emotion that flashes across many faces is one of worry, bordering on sorrow, for me. I think a common misconception in our country is that all military personnel will deploy to a war zone. Untrue.
It’s enlightening to people to learn that a small fraction will branch infantry and even then it’s usually a choice they themselves ranked. Yet even though the majority of service men and women are not laying their lives on the line for our freedoms, the offering “thank you for your service” is well deserved because the sacrifices they make are many—time and distance away from family, frequent relocations, long hours, early rise and shine daily.
So if your baby is supporting and defending our country and putting service before self, proudly accept those words of gratitude!
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Jane Checkett is a mom of three or four if you count her puppy, and she’s currently adjusting to her almost empty nest. She’s been a stay-at-home mom for much of her kids’ lives. In her former life, pre-kids, she was an editor at Teen Beat magazine and then a free-lance editor at Scholastic. Find her on Facebook as Jane Sullivan Checkett and Instagram as janecheckett.