My son is a soldier in the United States Army. At the time of this post, he is stationed in South Korea. He has been trained to be a soldier, to endure the challenges of military life. I said goodbye to a high school graduate and greeted a soldier two months later. My adjustment to being a military mom is taking a bit longer.
It was hard to wrap my head around the fact that my son is in the Army. That he has sworn an oath to serve the United States of America.
I had to stop seeing my son as the little boy who protected the backyard. The reason why I held onto this mindset was to take comfort in the one time I was confident as his mom. I am not confident on how to be mom to a solider.
His chosen path is nothing like working a nine-to-five job with weekends off. There are operational training, deployments to hostile areas, and assignments that keep him isolated. Spotty cell service and different time zones are a given. His job is to be at the ready to defend our land and liberty.
Everything is out of my control. Don’t like the fact my son does not have an oven? Get over it. Upset that he gets charged for a meal plan and the dining hall hours do not accommodate his schedule? Too bad. Concerned about the cracking in his knees because he landed wrong after jumping out of a plane? So what. Disappointed he can not enjoy his free time while stationed overseas because of transportation restrictions? Oh well. I try to joke saying, “I wish I could write a letter that is titled ‘Dear US Army please excuse my son’ or dial ‘1-800- talk to the person in charge’”. This attitude has not helped me. The only thing that has helped is swallowing the emotions that raise up when I hear about things I do not like. I have had to own this hard and terrible truth…
There is nothing I can do.
I thought his leave times would be easy times together. It is hard when my son comes home. In the movies, all the family members are waiting at the house to greet the soldier. In reality, years go by before both children are free at the same time. The heartache that my son’s leave may not pair up with my daughter’s availability is indescribable.
My son was still home when we started downsizing. In his absence, we have aggressively tightened our space. When he visits, I have to make room in the empty nest my husband and I have been creating. I feel guilty seeing how downsizing has made him a visitor in our home. Yet, at the same time, I am irritated that his stuff collects on the dining room table.
A lot of time passes between our visits. When he is home, I am very self-conscious of my weight gain. I’m mindful of the new wrinkles. Self-conscious of the extra white in my hair. I never thought of myself as vain, but I do not like the fact my son is seeing me instantly age at least one year the minute he sees me at the airport.
I am struggling to relate to my son. When he was growing up we were best buds. He is in a man’s world now – politics, artillery, sports, whiskey, cigars; these are topics that were not part of our relationships when he was growing up. A lot of this has to do with the fact he has been in the Army for six years, with very few visits home. All of his maturing has happened away from my watchful eye. My son has grown up and, in a way… outgrown me. It is not that he does not love and respect me, he has just come into his own. He has become a soldier. He has become a man.
My son has become a solider. I am still working on becoming a military mom.
Every chance I get I tell my son how proud I am of him. I admire him. His training has served him well. If he chooses, there is a long and honorable path before him as a soldier in the United States Army.
I wish there was a boot camp for us moms. To get all the knowledge right at the start of this journey of becoming a military mom. I have muddled my way through for years. At times I wonder if I am handling this adjustment well. I must be doing something right, because every time I get I chance to hear his voice, he still calls me “mom”. And I still call him son.