Monday, June 20, 2011

Navy Life

It is time for yet another good-bye. Tomorrow at noon our 22 year old son Riley leaves for Navy boot camp. As with all the events happening in our life right now I find myself in that place of both joy and a tiny bit of melancholy. He is about to embark on his grown-up life, the beginning of many adventures. It's the day every parent strives for, that day of watching our boy walk away as a grown man.

In the parenting classes I teach, I tell parents that I don't believe in discipline, I believe in guidance. I believe in looking ahead to the adult I want my child to be - not the career I want them to have, or the school I want them to attend, but the essence of the person I hope they will be. I look ahead to the values I hope they will carry deep in their hearts, to the way they will handle anger, how they will treat others. I think about all these things as I set them on the path to adulthood. My job, any parent's job, is to guide them along that path, giving them a little nudge back to the path when they take a step off. Guiding is teaching. Teaching them through my actions, through the person I am, teaching them through problem solving, through natural and logical consequences, teaching them every step of the way.

I tell you about my philosophy because in these last few years, and in these final days before departure, I can see the man I envisioned. I can see the man we envisioned, because I was not alone in guiding our sons. Eric and I parented as a team. We looked ahead together, we followed their paths together, both of us offering guidance. We were (and are) the counter-balance for each other and the support for each other. we are. Not at the end of the path, because each of us walks a path through our life. I think of it as a wide pathway, where for many years, the four of us could walk along side-by-side, till the day we saw the path begin to narrow, and a single-track appeared off to the side. Web followed the new path, while Eric, Riley and I continued along on the old. Now another side path has appeared, and Riley is set to follow it, while Eric and I continue along our path. Imagine it...their paths wind and twist, flow up and down, sometimes parallel to ours, sometimes crossing ours, sometimes distant, sometimes far. Always near, yet never on the same path again.

I am ready for this. I am. But as with all the best things in life, it is bittersweet. The end of a season of our lives, the beginning of a new season. I'm excited for Riley, I'm proud of him and the man he is now. I will miss him, his gentle presence, his goofy sense of humor, his bright smile. I'll learn to live with physical distance, just like I learned it when Web left home. It's all good, very good. Elisabeth Stone said:

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your
heart go walking around outside your body.”

My heart has been wandering through Oregon and Tennessee and Florida, and now it turns out that my heart will also be wandering through boot camp and Pensacola for a while.

The countdown continues...Riley leaves tomorrow, and we leave Puyallup two days later. We have had a rich and wonderful life in this home. I will miss it.


LesleyG said...

Wow. What a chapter to close as you all move on to the next. Best wishes to you!

Joe said...

Whew! The changes just keep flying in!!

My best to Riley and to you and Eric. Our oldest did 5.5 years in the Army...I well remember boot camp and all the many adventures from that point. Our youngest is now an Army officer and starts his active duty Army life two weeks from tomorrow.

I like your metaphor of the paths, Michelle...that is so apt. Enjoy the new, two-wide path you and Eric are on!

And, as always, if I can be of any assistance in talking about kids in the military, you know how to get hold of me!! It's an open offer to you and Eric!!!

All the best in these busy days!

jessica said...

I love you Michelle, you are such an amazing woman, mother and wife... all of which I hope to become someday. You are going through amazing changes and will have some amazing new memories!
I'm sorry I'll miss your party this weekend, but your guidance a little over four years ago has helped me become a running coach! You have touched so many people in so many ways!
I'll talk to you soon,
Jessica 253.350.4274