By Elaine Brye
Welcome to the military, Mom! You’d think a helicopter mom would fit right in but once boot camp begins you are grounded. Don’t get me wrong: Your role as a mom required a certain amount of hovering and oversight, but now as you transition to a military mom, everything changes… and it all starts with boot camp.
Perhaps you felt like I did as each of my four children made the choice to serve. I was proud and excited, but I was also more than a little nervous. Was my child ready to be tested? How would I adjust to the changes ahead? It had been my job to protect them, but now my babies were potentially heading into harm’s way!
Boot camp–the initial training period to transform your sons and daughters into military service members–goes by a lot of different names depending on the service branch. No matter the acronym, the purpose is the same. Your child needs to be trained, physically, mentally and morally, and it all begins there.
Your recruit is taught to be part of a team, pay attention to detail, learn the values of the military, and practice the skills they need. As a mom, I tried to teach my children many of these things when they were young, but the time-tested methods of boot camp brought out the best in my kids. They seemed inches taller when I saw them again.
It was not without blood, sweat and tears. (And I am just talking about me!)
You can look online to see a schedule of the weeks of basic training for each of the branches… so I want to focus on how it affects you. You will be in Momma’s Boot Camp, because like it or not, you have been enlisted into the Band of Mothers. We are the force on the home front supporting our children as much as we can. As your children go through training, you need to learn just as much as they are. So, let’s look at the three phases of Boot Camp as they relate to moms.
1. Letting go
Letting go is hard. Some moms get to do it in steps but when your child joins the military it is like cutting the cord with a machete. Remember that this is to make you both stronger. That goodbye as they leave to start one of the most difficult things they have ever done can be excruciating.
Can they hack the military? Did they make the right choice? Those thoughts may go through your head just like the sound of a rotor buzzing. And you probably won’t feel relief as you will spend the first two weeks with little communication. Some services allow a phone call upon arrival which can even be worse since the shock of entry can be upsetting.
During those first weeks, you may miss them and worry. The future holds many times of no communication. Find ways to make the time pass. Start walking, create something, clean out the garage, and build wonderful care packages if allowed. The key is to focus on how your kid is being trained to be their best.
2. The struggle
When you finally hear from them, they may complain. Of course, they will. It is hard work. Being pushed all the time is exhausting. Remind them (and you) how they are getting stronger and better in every way to prepare them for whatever challenges they face. That drill instructor wants the best for them even though it may not seem like it. Fight the urge to want it to be easier or to try to make it easier for them. They need to overcome obstacles and difficulties to have confidence in themselves.
3. Reality check
The weeks go by and graduation is upon you. You are elated to see them but also worried about what lies ahead. Remember, you are not alone. Just like your child, you will become part of a bigger unit, and other moms will be your best support. You will be glad to have your battle buddies especially when deployments start happening.
It is not easy to love someone in the military, but your sons and daughters did not choose easy for a reason. Honor their call by learning how to support them. Use your pride as fuel to power you through no matter where they go. You just might become a helicopter mom again. I did–my son flies a Chinook. Congratulations and welcome to the Band of Mothers! You can do this.