Our daughter and her husband wanted to make sure we would both be home. After they arrived, they asked us out onto the deck. They wanted to tell us something big. They already had a daughter not quite one year old, were they pregnant again? No. This news was something I had not expected at all. After research and prayer, they had decided to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives. Jed was joining the Coast Guard.
The news was shocking. I was speechless and my face showed it. Overwhelmed by emotions, I lost it. I knew that this would mean big changes for not only them but, for all of us. During the months of bootcamp our daughter was able to spend loads of time at our house. We were thrilled when Jed received his assignment. They would only be 2 1/2 hours away!
As our daughter navigated her new life as a military wife, we began our education in being a military family. We were slowly being initiated with the military acronym vocabulary. We began to understand that to be a military family meant relinquishing our own calendar for what was being set by those in command over our son in law. And, we gave so much more thought to those who run into danger than run away from it.
Eight months later, our 18 year old son left for boot camp with the Army. This new induction into being a military family was harder. Maybe it was because he was so young, maybe it was because he was our son (not son-in-law) being trained or maybe it was because of the missions that he would be training for. Nonetheless, the weeks and months following his departure were stressful for me.
If this is where you are, entering a new phase of parenthood with a now adult “child” off to boot camp, I understand. There is so much you don’t know. So much that as civilians, we don’t understand. It is all new and a little bit scary. Can I share with you a few things that helped me in the day to day in those first few months?
New ways to stay connected:
1) Look for a facebook moms group for your child’s branch of service. Even if you are just a lurker, it really helps to have a group of women that understand what you are going through. You will know you are not alone as you read through the joys and trials of other moms. I have never been in a group that so easily lives out Romans 12:15 which says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.”
2) Write letters but check with your child or their recruiter to make sure they can get mail. My son said that they had to do push ups proportionate to the amount of mail they got but, “It is worth it.” Keeping in mind that they do not have access to phones, tv, or media during training, my son requested several things that surprised me. He asked for newspaper clippings, church bulletins, lyrics for songs, pictures his younger siblings drew and basic updates for what was going on at the house with us.
3)Care packages are often not allowed during boot camp. Some things you may want to send in an envelope are photos of your family, home and friends. Your recruit will appreciate self addressed stamped envelopes and extra stamps.
4)The hours involved with training are intense. Your trainee will likely not have much time to write to you. To make correspondence easy for them, you may want to create a “fill in the blank” self addressed post card to send. Things like, “The best part of my day is_____”, “ I totally nailed it on_______”, “ The food here is_____”, or “This week we did _______”. This will help satisfy your need for information and connection while still letting him focus on the job he is there to do.
5)Keep your phone with you at all times with the ringer on high. Typically you aren’t going to be getting phone calls besides the initial scripted, “I arrived safely to the base. You will receive a letter with further details. (click)” However, one day my Apple Watch rang, alerting me that I had a call from my son. I ran around looking for my phone to answer (I had left it in the van!) His unit had won a 10 minute phone call home in a competition earlier that day. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like much but it is huge when you haven’t heard your child’s voice for months. From then on I remembered to keep my phone with me at all times, I am so thankful I didn’t miss that call!
6)Buy the gear. You could not be more proud of your child as they join the brave few that take an oath to serve. Get a bumper sticker, t-shirt or a bracelet that represents your child’s branch of service. When they get home and see your military bling, there will be no doubt that you cherish them and their service.
7)Learn the lingo. I do not pretend to think that I can learn all of the acronyms surrounding both the Coast Guard and Army but I can pick up on a few things. Though I may falter, I want to be knowledgeable in the things that are important to my children. It makes things a bit easier when I can follow along with some of the terminology when they call in and tell me about what is going on in their lives. I’m also finding it comes in handy on the phone when I need to clarify a letter in a word and can use the military alphabet to do it!
8)It’s ok to take some time away. You may need to take an extra nap. Some days you may want to be alone and others meeting a friend for coffee and a cheer up session. A day off of work may be the respite you need. Each one of us is different, it may take some time to figure out how to best care for yourself during this time of transition.
9)Be familiar with encouraging scripture! You may need to remind yourself of it or want to include it in a letter to your trainee. There will be discouraging days. Days when your mind is consumed by overwhelming thoughts. Take those thoughts captive and replace them with Words of Life that will remind you of truth. If you need a suggestion, Psalm 91 might be a good one to start with. Also look up Jeremiah 29:11, Joshua 1:9 and Isaiah 26:3-4.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”Jeremiah 29:11
10)Pray. This goes without saying doesn’t it? I don’t leave this until the end because it is the least important. I have left it until the end because I want this to be the freshest in your mind. Prayer is not the last resort but the first. It is God who holds our own futures as well as our children’s in His all capable and loving hands.
This Season Will Come To An End:
Hold on, soon enough these training weeks will be over. Your child will have their phone back and communication will come more easily. Things will become more routine and you will learn a new normal.
If you are a military mom, how did you navigate the weeks of bootcamp? Give me your thoughts on how we can encourage other moms in these early days of life as a military family.
A few more posts for the military mom: