In Brief: Our son left for boot camp one short week ago, and this mom’s gonna do what this mom’s gotta do to survive 13 long weeks of basic!
First of all, some background for those of you that don’t know me.
I’m a 50-year-old stay-at-home mom of seven—yes, seven—although as of last Monday, we’ve only got five kids at home. As of last Monday! These words bring a lump into my throat, because it’s only been one short week since we said goodbye to our son.
Why is this? you may ask justifiably, and I will respond, very calmly…
My bAby’s goNe oFF and joIned thE MaRiNes!!!
[Insert moment of quiet blubbering on the part of this blogger.]
This is my baby, aka “Jem” on this blog:
And this is my baby when I first started blogging:
The ten-plus years have basically flown by!
Also? Please don’t tell my baby that I call him my baby. He will become seriously annoyed, and that sort of attitude’s not good at boot camp.
* * *
Now I’ll be the first to admit that my son has had a much, much harder first week than I did, although it’s difficult for me to admit this because that means thinking long and hard about what these young men (and in the case of Parris Island, South Carolina) women are going through. I know, too, that my thoughts & coping methods might change over the next 13 weeks and that, come Graduation Day on October 13th, I might look back at this post and laugh out loud at my naiveté.
Well, who’s to say? This is where I’m at right now.
And with that as a very brief introduction, I’d like to share with you my personal list of ten ways to cope while missing (truly madly deeply) my Marine Corps Boot Camp recruit. I’ll give the list and then follow up with the examples.
I am learning as much as I can about the USMC and boot camp.
I am networking with other Marine Corps moms.
I am working out daily.
I am eating clean.
I’m (gulp) not drinking.
I am taking the dog for an obscene amount of walks.
I am chopping down trees to release extra stress (not really).
I am recalling happier times.
I am not thinking about all those uncertain “What if’s?”
I am placing myself directly in the line of
1. I am learning as much as I can about the United States Marine Corps.
This is huge and can be all-consuming. First of all, we’re not a military family. This is all brand new to us. Second, I’ve got five other kids—three daughters, two little men—and a husband, all of whom tend to resent my spending the day on research.
(Which, in truth, is what I want to do.)
So I sneak in some extra learning when I can, in the form of various military websites and books like this one:
…which is really, really good.
Making the Corps has been an eye-opening read, both for myself and for my husband. We’re taking turns and sharing stories at supper; we’re beginning to realize we’ve led a very soft life! Not that we want our home to be a boot camp, but we are starting to focus anew on correcting our family’s bad habits—little things, like picking up after ourselves and interrupting at the table, and big things like not talking back or skipping chores.
We’ll make little Marines of them yet!
Don’t tell Grandma. 😉
I can truthfully say that my life has taken on a somewhat surreal new meaning. The status quo has changed for me and I feel physically & emotionally challenged, knowing that my son’s getting pushed to his breaking point. I want to push myself to my limits right alongside him—I want to be better, stronger, kinder, more supportive—because as his mom, it’s the least I can do.
Which brings me to Coping Method Number Two…
2. I am networking with other Marine Corps moms.
Last Monday, we were told to be at the swearing-in ceremony at 9:00 and to expect a 5-10 minute ceremony. As it turned out, we were there at MEPS for a good four hours before all was said, done, and sworn!
“Hurry up and wait” is an expression I learned quickly.
But honestly I didn’t mind. I met some wonderful women as we waited whose sons are going through boot camp with my own. They will be one of my lifelines for the next 13 weeks because I do not want to go through this on my own.
Meeting them IRL and on Facebook is a joy.
3. I am working out.
This one’s kinda funny, really, because I’ve decided to get in shape alongside my son. Funny in that, okay, I can’t even do a single pull-up and a 3-mile run takes me 40 minutes (on a good day). This...less than stellar level of fitness would get me booted from boot camp before I started!
The good news is, I’m making progress…and pushing myself physically makes me feel proactive.
It’s something that I can do with my son.
4. I am eating clean as much as possible and would like to drop ten stubborn pounds.
I call it my “fighting weight” and I figure, what’s good for the Marine is good for the Marine’s mama!
Also, because I figure that the learning curve is not steep enough—you know, learning all there is to know about the United States Marine Corps—I’ve decided to take on the Trim Healthy Mama approach.
This is my version of a lipstick-less Vanna White. Also, please note that my cookbook was a SPECIAL edition; yours might not have flowers sprouting out of the top.
What can I say? Pearl and Serene think I’m special.
5. I’m avoiding my beloved red wine for awhile.
The reasons for this decision are legion and will be better addressed in a separate post. Let’s just say that after my mom passed away at the end of April, I’d grown extremely fond of using wine to cope, and this strikes me as maybe an unhealthy dependence.
I mean, who needs Merlot when you got this kid?
Okay, maybe that’s not the best example.
6. I am taking the dog for lots of walks.
I am taking the dog for an obscene amount of walks, as in logging 10-15,000 steps daily.
I wear my sunglasses so people don’t see me cry.
7. I am lopping down trees to release extra stress.
Okay, not really, but I’ve thought about it.
7. I am recalling to mind lots of happier times…
….like hiding out in the bushes to take pictures of my son & his friends.
The few, the proud, the helicopter parents.
I am nothing if not a creepy stalker mom.
Seriously, though, nostalgia can be tricky. I have to be careful about not living in the past because that takes me swiftly away from the present. The past is…past. Let’s make today truly lovely.
8. I’m writing my son a ton of letters and keeping the tone super light & cheerful.
Even though we won’t get his address for 10-14 days, I’ve started a stack of letters to mail once we do. Those beautiful Andrew Wyeth stamps are just for my Jem, and every time I stick one on…
…I’m lovin’ my boy with all my heart.
And now we’ve arrived at the last two bullet points—the two that were saved as “the best for last.”
9. I am not giving heed to various and sundry dark thoughts.
This one is tricky because my tears come unbidden. The pain of separation…the missing him is real, but I can’t let myself give into the grief because when I do, I start to play the “What if?” game. What if my son gets hurt in basic? What if my son gets sent to war? What if…what if…what if?!
The game starts to spiral downwards from here and that’s why I won’t let myself start to play it. My advice to all you mamas (and dads) is this: You can’t hang onto your babies forever. You give them roots then give them wings, because eventually they become their own people.
God has no grandchildren, is what I’m saying.
The truth is, my son wants to serve his country and he didn’t choose an easy path. I support him 100% in his decision because I know this is who God’s called him to be and I TRUST in God’s plan for all of us.
10. Finally, I am praying a lot.
This is the number one way that I am coping. Daily prayer, daily Mass, the rosary, the intercession of my friends the saints...I’m doing it all and it’s keeping me sane!
Of course, it’s only been a week since my son left for boot camp.
In three more months, all bets are off. 😉