Thursday, March 22, 2012

When Life As You Know It Changes

My son enlisted in the Navy yesterday. He leaves 10 weeks from today. He will turn 19 years old 2 weeks later.

I've never been apart from my son for more than 2 weeks. He was born when I was a 22 year old single mother and we've been our own little family unit his entire life. As a parent he has been my priority day and night whether he was physically beside me, with his father, his friends etc... "Where is he?" "Is he eating?" "Is he warm enough?" "Is he happy?" I don't know what will happen when he leaves, when all communication must stop during his 9 weeks at boot camp.

In typical Librarian fashion when a major change happens in my life I turn to books. When I was pregnant I read, What to Expect When You're Expecting. When he was a little boy and liked dressing up as Peter Pan, a pirate or knight and brought home jars full of bugs I read books with titles like, Raising Boys and Boys Should Be Boys. I learned about the sports he played by reading books by coaches of lacrosse, soccer, football, fencing and basketball. When he told me he wanted to leave college and enlist, I researched the branches of the US military. And now that he is leaving our home I might start reading books like, 133 Ways to Avoid Going Cuckoo When the Kids Fly the Nest: A Parent's Guide For Surviving Empty Nest Syndrome.

When I wonder about his future I worry how the life of a soldier will affect him. Will he see combat? Will he retain his individuality? Will he get an education? My son is a wonderful young man, smart and funny, loyal to his friends, compassionate and kind and accepting of all cultures, religions and lifestyles. I'm proud of him and find comfort that he was raised as a child of the modern world.

My family and friends advise me that everything will be ok. My wonderful partner Paul who is also an empty nester with 2 children in college out of state is my comfort as are my parents and friends who I know will surround my son and I with love and support during these final weeks he is home and the first few weeks he is gone.

So on June 1 when I wake up to an empty house without my daily responsibilities of cooking and cleaning for a teenage boy, curling up on the sofa and watching movies together, worrying when he comes home late, walking the dog together, planning family vacations, hearing his laughter in the basement with his friends, and getting giant bear hugs from his 6'7 body, I will remember I raised him right and that he will make a difference in the world.

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