Almost every day I tell my 4-year-old that he can be whatever he wants when he grows-up.
“Let’s look at the moon!” he says.
“You should be an astronaut! You can be whatever you want, you know,” I say.
Grooming him so that all the possibilities of the world are open is my number one Mommy Job. And while at some point we may discover that he inherited his mother’s failure to comprehend even simple arithmetic, right now I believe he could be a mathematician if he really wanted to.
But after reading yet another story this morning highlighting how few of our teens and young 20-somethings even meet the basic qualification for joining the military, I realized my son most likely will. And so I found myself wondering something new:
Am I accidentally specifically grooming my child to join the military? And if I was, would that be a bad thing?
Four-year-olds still believe that whatever their mommy tells them is absolute law. If Mom says it is night time because “the sun is sleeping now,” then by golly that’s what is going on. And if Mom says we love the Army because, well, it’s the Army, then loving the Army it is.
But what if loving the Army translates into wanting to join it, too?
I would never dream of teaching him that military service is a bad thing. I would never even consider telling him “you can be whatever you want – but not a soldier.” I love our Army life and I am so, SO proud of my husband's service.
And yet, I watch these families with military brats who are now in uniform themselves, and I wonder if instead of giving my kid a world of possibilities I am making sure he qualifies best for just one. I look at my unspoken goals for him, and this is what I see:
Resiliency? Check. A fit lifestyle that puts him under the weight requirements? Check. An education? Check. A leadership mentality? Check.
And so on.
We've heard before about Jacey’s feelings about her son heading to West Point after spending his childhood as a Navy brat.
On the one hand, I would be unfathomably proud that my little boy was out there defending his country, just like his father and grandfather did. I would love that uniform. I would buy all the “support our troops” regalia I could find. I would go to every graduation, and I wouldn’t even giggle at the cheesiness of the “Rangers in Action” demonstration. I may even wear a t-shirt with a patriotic looking eagle on it.
On the other hand, I would worry that he joined the Army (because he wants to be in the coolest service, obviously) because he felt like he had to – because he wanted to carry on the family tradition or because service is what the Bushatz family does.
I want to make sure the brain behind those big, sparkling brown eyes comprehends that while service is admirable, others things are good, too.
So tell me – how do you make sure your children know that the military is a admirable thing but not the only thing?