We were as surprised as anyone by the statement, and the fact we got second billing was a funny story we told for years.
He is now 25 and training somewhere (I don’t know where) getting ready for deployment in the next month or so. I have only a vague idea of when he’s leaving. As he keeps telling me, “this ain’t Boy Scout camp, mom. You aren’t going to drive me to the bus, there’s no supplies for you to buy and you don’t need to label my clothes”.
My son never waivered in his determination to become a Marine. He did well in school, and we were blessed to send him to good Catholic schools K-12. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 2011 – the paperwork involved in applying to USNA would test the commitment of anyone. I helped him with the process and I have no doubt that he never would have gotten it all done had I not been involved.
There’s been more than one person, even a few in our extended family, who have commented, “How could you let him become a Marine?” As I patiently explain, over and over, I could very well have prevented his choice of colleges, but I couldn’t have chosen his alternative. It’s not like I could have said: No, you can’t become a Marine, be a history professor. I could have said it, but it wouldn’t have happened. It is my firm belief that had he not become a Marine he probably would be a bum. And he agrees. Anyway, had he not gotten into USNA he would have enlisted on his 18th birthday. And that’s okay too.
I am amazed that in these days, when the common complaint of parents is a failure to launch of their children, some are critical of someone who has been willing to accept the responsibilities of adulthood with commitment, literally putting his life on the line for others.
My point here is not to convince you that my son has chosen a worthy calling – he comfortable with his decision, as am I; my point is there seems to be an epidemic of “failure to launch”. I see 26-year olds living with their parents. They may or not have a college degree; they may or may not have a job. They may or may not have a girlfriend/boyfriend; if they do, it’s not serious and there’s seldom discussion of marriage.
The one consistent quality they share is no concept that there is anything greater than themselves; there’s no devotion to a cause that doesn’t directly benefit them. There’s no enthusiasm or excitement for the challenges and rewards of adulthood.
Who do I blame? The low-hanging fruit for transgressor is culture and public schools, where self-esteem is more important that actual ability; where feelings (“I don’t feel like getting a job” and “I don’t feel like waiting tables”), are more important than facts and realities (there are bills to be paid, and I have a responsibility to pay them). But I also blame parents.
During the George W Bush presidency, a friend, who is also an opinion writer, told me, “If my child got killed in Iraq, there’s no Secret Service detail that could keep Bush safe.” I’ll set aside the irony that this person regularly opines about how wrong Capital punishment is. I replied to him, “Why in the name of God would your child ever be in Iraq? Your son might be, and if he were it would have been because as an adult he chose to join the Military. And because he made AN ADULT DECISION.” (And yes, I was yelling by this time…)
Are we as parents partially to blame for the fact that we don’t support decisions that our children make, decisions that we might not agree with, but are adult decisions nonetheless? Do we not encourage marriage because they are, in our opinion, too young? Or we don’t like their choice for a spouse? Are career choices discouraged? Colleges? Trade schools? Don’t think your kid should get a part-time job in high school, but instead he/she should focus on school work? Know your kid’s GPA by heart, a subject about which your kid is indifferent?
There are some people, and my son is one example, who will achieve their goals regardless of obstacles in their path. He would’ve walked barefoot over broken glass to get to a recruiter’s office. My daughter got a job at 15 – it would have happened regardless of the opinion of my husband and me. She put on her big girl shoes and walked from restaurant to restaurant until someone hired her. And now, at 23, she’s receiving the resumes of college graduate friends who have never had a job. Not during the summer, not during Christmas break.
But it’s not fair to expect everyone to be so determined. There are a lot of young adults who might have good instincts, but are going to get distracted by obstacles or lack of encouragement from the adults in their life. All they need is some support, some guidance and encouragement, to be taken seriously.
Me thinks we might get more young adults actually launching if they get treated like adults with all the freedom and responsibility adulthood entails–and we as parents can either watch with satisfaction when it works out, or say a silent “I told you so” when it doesn’t.