As I wrote last week, I am very proud that our son Ethan has enlisted in the army. And I am also relieved.
There may be some who say I’m naïve for thinking this way, but I am relieved because for the next five years while he is in the army, I know he will be taken care of. A lot of the reasons I have worried about him will be gone. Sure, he’s 24 and has been out of my “care” for several years, but no matter how old your children are, does a mom ever stop worrying about her kids?
Once he is in the army, his most basic needs for food and shelter will be met and that is no small thing. But equally important, his need to find a role and purpose in life will be met and that was something I worried…and prayed about…for him.
You see, in the past year since he graduated from college, I have watched Ethan struggle and not be able to get his feet underneath himself. His goal after graduation was to find a job in film production and while he worked plenty of nonpaying gigs so that he could build his resume and IMDB creds, it just wasn’t adding up to steady employment. I worried if he would he be able to find full-time work? And what about making the payments on his student loans that were getting bigger by the minute? I probably should have been able to say to myself that those are his concerns and they really don’t have anything to do with me, but I still felt the burden of his uncertainty in life.
He came close to getting jobs that could have turned into a career. We spent a couple of painful hours on the phone with him more than once during the past year when he was one of two candidates for good jobs that would have been right up his alley in film production but the companies chose the other applicant.
Because he needed to pay his rent, he looked for any kind of a job: retail, administrative, or food service – with the exception of Starbucks. He had already done two stints there, one in high school and one in his junior year of college, and he refused to do a third.
In this economy, even minimum wage jobs are hard to come by. He eventually found a sales job that cost him as much in gas money as he made in commissions.
However, now that he is enlisting in the army, instead of taking another minimum wage job at H&M or a Peets, he is going to spend 10 weeks in basic training, which is certain to be a life changing experience. After that, he will spend a year learning a language. It could be Korean, Arabic or Japanese. He is going to have the opportunity to travel which he never would have had the confidence to tackle on his own. Even his first step in his enlistment, which is traveling to basic training in South Carolina, will expose him to people, places and ideas that he never otherwise would have been exposed to.
When I look at the army website and see the photos of the soldiers in basic training crawling on their stomachs in the mud or cleaning their weapons or being eyed by the stern sergeant, I have a brief moment of thinking that looks scary. But then I have to remember that it’s him not me who is going to be in that situation and he is totally excited by the challenge of it. I can have faith in a system that has perfected bringing out the best in men and women for generations. I know he will be in good hands.