My son is a son of a son of a sailor.
Well, technically, he is a son of a son of a National Guardsman and a son of a grandson of a Chief Warrant Officer in the Navy. But to line up three generations of men who have worn a uniform serving their country, one thing is clear. A family legacy of military service has been set. I look at the pictures of my husband’s grandfather wearing the same uniform that my husband wears today and I look at my son with that one big question: will he, too, follow in the footsteps of his father?
When a baby is born into a Navy family, inevitably, someone shows up with a tiny newborn sailor suit for the new little one. But when my son was born, I hesitated to put him in nautical gear. I didn’t want there to be any expectation that we wished him to follow any path except the one that he determined himself. While this may have been silly to worry about with an infant, when you are a parent for the first time, you just want so badly to get it right. I want our son to have a blank piece of paper on which his life is written, free from the pulls of looking at what mom or dad did or what he thinks people expect him to do. However, if I learned anything getting my degree in Sociology, I learned while we are born with certain traits and personalities, we are molded in our experiences in life. Even if we offer neutral words about our thoughts on his future career, I recognize that it is impossible for him to grow up without experiencing the influences that comes with being brought up as the proverbial “military brat.” It is impossible for us to put blinders on him to keep out those experiences.
And would I really want to?
The world that my son will grow up in will be a colorful one. While those colors will primarily be khaki and blue, the experiences of living overseas or waiting for his father at the end of a pier will forever be engrained in his brain. Perhaps the experience of missing his dad through a deployment will influence him negatively. Or perhaps starting school in South America will start a lifelong love for travel. When my son sits me down someday to tell me what post-education plans he has made for his life, I hope that I support him down any career path that he chooses. Motherly fears and fatherly pride may leave that lump in the back of our throats as we talk about his plans, but we will stand behind him whether he chooses to follow the family military legacy or not.
If you are a parent, do you worry about your sons or daughters choosing a military life? Would you encourage them to follow a different career path or a specific military path?