Wait, It Was Me, and Boy Was I wrong!
Saying goodbye is a constant as a USNA parent. Goodbye on I-Day, at PPW, every time we visit, the few times they get to visit us, and so on. As time goes on, it does get a bit easier to say goodbye, but at some point, it all goes back to square one…
This realization dawned on me as I was dropping off my now-Officer at the airport recently. I can’t lie – the tears began streaming down as I watched them enter the airport terminal. I always mention to parents that they may find that their incoming Plebe may get temperamental before I-Day, possibly each night as they prepare to return to the Yard during PPW, and each time they see you and have to say goodbye. Each Mid is different and they all find a way to get their game face on. I talk about this in my podcast, “Irritable and Argumentative Goodbyes.”
I had noticed this in all of my Mids as they prepared to return to the Yard, and although it got better as they climbed the pecking order and rank, they still had some mental prep to do before returning. In a reversal of fortune, this time around I was the one that was preparing for the separation and I noticed that I got quiet, perhaps even a bit irritable. As a parent, I was content to know their tightly managed schedule which can be predictable except on weekends with liberty. For the most part we know when and where they are most days, safely tucked away somewhere in on the Yard or Mother B.
When they go out into the Fleet and Marine Corps, things change drastically for us as parents. Our children, now independent adults begin to live “normal” lives within their military boundaries. They manage their homes and finances, go out with friends, go to concerts, and travel, so it is not as easy to guess where they may be at a given moment. Especially when they are deployed, we as parents return to Plebe year and no communication – for weeks and maybe even months at a time. It can be unnerving and all that I can do is pray that they are safe and live my deployment mantra: “No News is Good News.” In another of my podcast episodes, one of my favorite mentors, Elaine Brye (author of Be Safe, Come Home) and I talk about a lesson she taught me – to “embrace the suck”. You can listen to that podcast episode here.
Yes, now that they are in the Fleet or USMC and outside of Mother B’s walls it is different. Not only from a safety stand point but it can be more difficult to see them, and when you do, you never know when the next time may be. They are busy with work, orders, watch, and duties. Of course, they enjoy time with friends, and just as with their journey as an upper class at USNA, their focus is more on their social and work lives. That does not mean we are forgotten for long. Many times out of the blue I will get a call just to check in, just to talk, or for advice. That make is all worthwhile!
Throughout our journey and especially in the post-Mother B stage of life, it is important not to take things personally, not to focus on the fear of the what-ifs and things that we can’t control, and to remember what they have been called to do – to serve. I keep saying that we are not in their CoC (Chain of Command) and it may be hard to remember that – but it is important to respect that fact. They are now independent adults, which is the whole point of parenting, right? We need to pat ourselves on the back more often because we have done a good job with our kids!
And yes, military service is a calling to serve our nation and when our sons and daughters serve, we serve too in a manner of speaking. We help hold down the fort, support, encourage, and love. There are a lot of personal sacrifices that go along with that service for the service member AND for their families! That is why less than 1% of the population volunteers to serve, why it is the more difficult road, less traveled, and why we are such a tightly knit family. We have each other’s backs.
All in all, it does get a little easier as time goes on, but as with everything in our MidParent lives, we will circle back to the beginning and start all over again. And I changed my mind. It does not get easier, just different, and in many ways much harder to say goodbye. Hang in there – I am right there with you!
That is one of the things that makes our journey as Navy parents different than any other and we are fortunate and privileged to be the parents of these amazing young people and to be a part of our amazing N*avy family.
I am always here if you need a shoulder to lean on! GO NAVY!