If there is one thing this family has learned to do, it’s launching. Not rockets or campaigns. Just starting out on our own. Both my husband and I went into the service. I was 17 and he was 19. We learned to make it without the benefit of family around us. Our kids picked their own times to leave home. Our oldest came home one day and said, “Mom, I just think it’s time to find out if I can take care of myself.” I couldn’t argue with that. She’d done some college and been in the workforce. I understood. Our son gave the university a try and decided to come back home, work, and go to community college. After another semester of that, and feeling like he wasn’t getting anywhere, he announced he was going in the Air Force, too. It felt right. We were supportive. Our youngest did a couple of semesters of college, changing her major midway, and then feeling like she couldn’t afford to continue. Theatre, her passion, was available outside of college also, and she gave it go on her own. Her launch was not as successful, but she did her best. It was a hard thing to be successful at despite her talent. She launched several times, but like it is in the space business, sometimes you crash and burn and sometimes you land safely. She knew we’d be there when she needed us. I think they all learned a lot about themselves and their abilities. Some lessons I wish we could have avoided, but everyone is doing just fine.
Now, it’s time for our first grandchild to launch. It’s a different perspective when it’s a grandchild rather than your own child. We’ve been through this a few times already. Seasoned pros. Sure, we still worry and we hope she’ll be able to avoid the temptations and traps of the outside world. There’s a different feeling though. I believe in her and so, I think she’ll do just fine. I do think there will be some truly eye opening things happen to her and I do feel there will be some attitude adjustments, but she will get through it. Didn’t we all think we were smarter and more experienced than we were? She’s got a good head on her shoulders and her parents did a great job with her. She’d never had to share a room until college and that didn’t go too well, but she was the responsible one, not the one who had to be babysat. She did a semester of college, and while she did well, she decided she wanted more. She, too, has decided to join the Air Force. Her plan is to finish her degree during her time in. While it makes me immensely proud, I have tried, successfully I hope, to avoid filling her head with everything that fills mine. Her experience will be different than mine and she will handle things differently than I did. I never regretted my decision to go in and almost regret my decision to get out, but whatever she chooses to make of this, it will be her choice alone to make. I tell her stories, but the Air Force I knew back in the 70’s will not be the one she comes to know. I am glad that she has her uncle to talk to about things since he is still active duty, but we will always be here for whatever she may need. She knows this.
No, I worry more about her parents. I see them battling with their feelings about this. They are fine with her decision itself, but I can see the struggles to let go and remember those same feelings when I had them. Sending your child off to college is a little different than the military. Just seeing them off is tough either way. There are more things to consider about the experience in the military though, and while I didn’t cry sending my girls out the door to spread their wings, I did cry right after I said goodbye to my son at the airport. I knew there was a possibility of danger in his future, but it’s what he wanted and we understood the life. Our granddaughter is an only child, making this understandably harder. Part of them wants to say, “Go forth! Live your life! Make good choices!” Another part thinks, “What if something bad happens? What if someone hurts my baby? What if she needs me and I can’t be there?” All normal feelings and ones you have to stuff deep down inside and not fret yourself to death about. Our granddaughter will be caught up in everything going on around her, especially through basic training and tech school. Her parents on the other hand, will feel her absence and worry non-stop. The lack of contact will be the hardest. They can’t even ask if she’s ok. I have since wondered how my mother and father felt sending me off at such a young age.
Her parents have to trust. They need to trust that they’ve done a good job raising her and she will always remember the things they’ve taught her. They have to trust people they don’t know, and might never know, to look out for her. They have to trust HER. She’s a good kid that doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. She takes pride in her work. She’s a good leader and a good friend. She’s got a great personality and she’s a whole lot wiser than I was when I went in. I have the advantage of trusting all of those things. I can step back and smile and be there for her parents, and waiting to hear about her adventures. They will never stop worrying. It’s their job. The day will just come that they worry less, admire her efforts, and feel pride in what she’s doing. We all will.
From the first time you let your baby sit up by themselves for the first time, take those first steps without you, or take the training wheels off of their bikes, it’s just a small practice run for the big finale. It’s frightening, it’s paralyzing sometimes, and it’s never easy, but you know it’s time. Just take a deep breath and try to convince yourself that they will be ok. The odds are in your favor!