As we sat in the office, filling out the paperwork, one question the recruiter asked him was, “Has anyone pressured or coerced you to join the military?”
Dustin & I glanced at each other & smiled. He answered, “No sir, they have not.”
My oldest son will soon celebrate his 18th birthday. Soon after, he will graduate from high school. And soon after that, he will leave us. Off on his great adventure.
Dustin is joining the Coast Guard.
If you know me well, you know that this is the absolute last thing that I would have expected from a child of mine. I certainly never encouraged Dustin to consider the military. Actually, when the subject came up, I was always quick to dismiss it. I always expected Dustin would go to college after high school.
But if you know Dustin well, you know that he does not follow neatly in his parents’ footsteps. He has always been just a little more conservative, a little more establishment, than Paul & I. We tease each other; I call him a square & he calls me a hippy. But we respect our differences, because it does take all kinds. Dustin & I generally get on quite well. While I cannot always be his friend, I am glad that he does not see me as an enemy.
I appreciate that Dustin is his own person. I admire that he made an adult decision about the direction he wants to go in life. It is not the decision that I would have made for him, but he is not rebelling, of that I am sure. And as much as I just don’t understand it, I do support him.
That sounds very kind & loving mother, doesn’t it? Well, let me just say that it has been a process to get to this place. And it helps a great deal that he has chosen the Coast Guard over other branches of the military.
Dustin brought up military service several times over the last few years &, as I said before, I was not willing to hear it. It’s not for you, you will go to college. But I watched him grow so very bored with school the last couple of years, just going thru the motions. No enthusiasm about starting college. I began to realize that I can only push him so far &, until he wants it, there is no point in wasting time in college.
So, when he told me that he was interested in the Coast Guard, I listened. I didn’t want to listen. I wanted to make him do what I think is best for him. But I thought to myself, how could I tell Dustin to grow up, to be his own person, to live a life that he can be proud of…& then try to hold him back from his own choices? It is very difficult to parent, but it seems almost more difficult to just let go.
So I listened. We researched together, we talked about it. We went together to meet a recruiter & get more information. I annoyed the recruiter & embarrassed Dustin with my endless questions. We talked more. Researched more. Talked more.
I wanted Dustin to make a fully informed decision. I wanted him to realize that this is a huge decision, a game changer. Four years of his life. I also wanted him to know that I would support him in his choice. Because, in the end, it is his choice. It is his life.
Dustin took his military entrance exam last week & scored an 86. He passed the physical. He will swear in next month. He will leave in June. He will likely spend much of the next four years far from his family.
Of course, as a mother, I am a big jumbled up mess of emotions over this. It is so very hard to let go. But, most important, he should know that I am very proud of him.