Have a son or daughter joining the service? Perhaps it’s your spouse, either way this is totally helpful! Take it from a mom who has been there…10 Things I Learned After My Daughter Left for Boot Camp!
Kayla left on Easter Sunday to begin her Navy career, and I’ve learned so much while she’s been at boot camp, and thought that it would be beneficial to share them with y’all!
She had to be at the recruiters office that morning, and she thought he would be driving her up, and had we known that he wasn’t, we would have. We live a few hours away from the nearest MEPS location, and seriously would have rather drove her than her ride the caravan she rode in, with other recruits. What is normally a few hours away, ended up being nearly 5 hours, because they made several stops along the way to pick up even more recruits heading to MEPS.
I thought Easter Sunday was miserable, but at least I got to talk and text her on her way up. Monday, she woke up bright and early and went to be officially sworn in, before flying out to Chicago to the US Naval Recruit Training Command. Again, on this day I got to talk to her that morning when she called, and she sent me various texts throughout the day. I think we talked on the phone a total of three times, including the dreaded “scripted” call. I decided to put together this list of 10 things I learned after my daughter left for boot camp, so that other moms/dads/spouses/family/friends will know they are not alone.
- The scripted call is horrible, so prepare yourself. I got the call around 10pm on Monday night, and in the total of 30 seconds, it was a blur. “I’m here, I’m safe, and in about a week you’ll receive a box of my stuff. I’ll write when I can. Bye.” ::Click:: The only thing I could do was cry when she hung up. The only thing I could say to her was okay and bye. She had already told me not to say “I love you” because she can’t say it back, and most likely it would upset her. Do yourself a huge favor…have them call you as soon as they land in Chicago, from the airplane. This was our goodbye call. We chatted for just a few minutes, but it made all the difference in the world, and I much preferred getting to say I love you and goodbye in a normal fashion. Be prepared for that scripted call. Don’t try and tell them anything, most likely it will just upset them, and chances are they’re probably already pretty upset. Also, put on those big girl panties, and don’t cry. This too will only upset them more. It’s 30 seconds or less, you can hold it together for that long. *Btw, they only get one phone call. From what I’ve seen in the Facebook groups, it tends to be the custodial parent that receives that phone call. Or a spouse, and y’all parents heads up, sometimes it’s the g/f or b/f that gets that phone call. If this is something you are worried about, perhaps talk to your son or daughter before they leave to see who they plan on calling.
- You will no longer go anywhere without your cell phone. Places include the bathroom, the laundry room, getting the mail, walking from the kitchen to the bedroom, etc. You never know when your SR (Seaman Recruit) may call you. In one of the groups I’m in on Facebook, one mom’s son called within the first couple of days because they needed some information to fill out paperwork. You do not want to miss any phone calls, because you literally never know when one may come in. Most likely they have everything they need before leaving, but what if they needed something?! You will want to keep your phone with you at all times, and make sure it’s charged up. I have two charging sticks, just in case!
- The hardest part is not being able to talk to her. It’s true. Even though I worry about her well being, I know that she’s being taken care of. Medical problems? They are covered! A place to sleep? Yep. They eat three meals a day, so she’s not going hungry. They are clothed and warm. Sure they are being yelled at, but they are learning everything they need to in order to be..in Kayla’s case, a sailor. At the end of the day it’s not being able to pick up the phone or send a quick text that says, “hey, how was your day?” that’s the hardest. Which is why you circle back to number 2…keep those phones with you at all times!
- Facebook groups become a part of your daily life. I have joined several, including ones that are with other family members that have a son or daughter graduating on the same date as Kayla. And because I follow the US Navy Recruit Training Command on Facebook, I got the chance to see a photo from the night of their arrival, one of which I’m 99.9% sure that Kayla is in. (I downloaded that picture, and zoomed in on my desktop as close as I could get!) Photos like that aren’t typical. Apparently it was a special occasion, but I’ll take it! If I didn’t follow them on Facebook, or weren’t in any groups, I never would have see the photo. **It was Kayla! She confirmed it on the 3rd week phone call.**
- Start writing letters asap. I didn’t even have her address yet, but I was still writing. It takes a couple of weeks before you get that information, but that shouldn’t stop you from writing. As soon as you get that address, you’ll be ready to drop some letters in the mail. Remember letters from home are the only way to communicate with you, but leave out the I miss you, and I’m so sad parts. They know this already. They miss you too! A couple of days before Kayla left, I was crying, and telling her I was going to miss her so much…she said to me “momma y’all have each other, and I am going to be by myself.” This hurt my heart even more, but it’s true. So keep your letters upbeat, positive, and sure, even boring. No, you may not think they want to hear about the latest episode of a tv show you’re watching, but if that’s all you got to say, it’s better than nothing.
- You’re gonna cry. You’re gonna be sad. You’re gonna miss them. It’s ok. You are not alone. Join groups on Facebook, and get some support from others going through the same thing you are. It really does help. What has also helped me is looking at the timeline for what she’s expected to be doing on that day. You can look it up for any branch of the military. It’s nice to read that today she is learning to march, or that she had a packed lunch because of more medical screenings. It’s the little things.
- The box! About 3 to 5 days after your son, daughter, or spouse has left, you will receive the infamous box. It’s a box of their belongings that they took with them, that they aren’t allowed to keep. I received everything, including her tennis shoes, and dirty underwear. <— They do have the option to donate or throw away items. Oh, by the way, make sure they pack light, they are the ones paying to ship that box to you. You may go through this box, searching for a letter to you, or the address, but unless they had a moment on the airplane, or preplanned a note, and had it with them, you won’t find any of that here. They don’t have time to write at this point. And they won’t have an address for several days, so it’s not there either.
- Form letter – about 10 days after receiving her box, I received the form letter. It’s not personal. It’s a fill in the blank letter with their name, graduation date, a security form that you will need to fill out and return to them ASAP, to ensure that the background checks are preformed for those attending graduation, and finally the coveted address! All those letters you’ve been writing, send them! We were actually lucky enough to get the form letter and a personal letter on the same day. It just sort of fell that way. It doesn’t always happen. A lot of people notice that certain days of the week are SR mail days. Our day happens to be Thursday. Every Thursday since she started mailing letters, we have received one. It’s one day of the week, besides Friday to look forward too!
- That first personal letter – Most likely, it’s gonna be a downer. They are going to write all about how awful the RDC’s (drill instructors) are to them. How nobody in their division can do anything right, and how hard everything is. Don’t worry….this will pass. The first few weeks they are learning what is excepted of them, and how to work together as a team, with a bunch of strangers. They may even be sick. To be honest, Kayla is still sick, and she has about 2 weeks left.
- Start making plans for graduation NOW! If you are planning on attending your SR’s graduation, figure up the date, and book a room, if you are planning on staying at The Navy Lodge. (not sure if all branches have something similar) I called and booked a room, at the supposed graduation date, but then later found out that she was in a “push division”, and would graduate a week sooner. Bummer. I called for several days in a row to book the previous weekend, and then it was even harder to get all the days I needed. At this point, we are staying one night, and then having to switch to a different room for the remaining time. Places like that book fast! Of course there is also cancellations all the time. So if you don’t get a room, call daily. We are driving, but if you are flying make sure you book an airline with free cancellations. Graduation dates change. If they don’t pass something, they can get pushed back. If they are sick for too long, they can get pushed back. You want to make sure you are covered in case anything like that happens.
I am working on another post right now about what to bring to PIR (pass and review) aka graduation, and how to prepare for it. Stay tuned! Also if you will be heading to the Great Lakes for a Navy graduation, and will be doing some sightseeing, a post on that is headed your way when we return!