Sweet Girl sent me a link a couple of months ago to a website called Navy for Moms. As you might have guessed by its clever but oh-so-subtle title, it is a website for moms whose children are in the Navy. They are a warm and friendly bunch, and I immediately felt welcome and a part of this huge family.
I have only joined two groups so far: Moms of Daughters in the Navy (which is listed as "Mom's of Daughter's and I almost didn't join because I am a grammar snob and can't possibly be a member of a group who so blatantly misuses apostrophes) and Georgia Moms. The Georgia moms got together for lunch this past Saturday (well, some of them anyway), and although I'm not usually all about going somewhere where I won't know a soul, I enjoyed it tremendously.
It struck me as I was driving home that none of us talked about what WE do for a living. Some of the dads were there, but the talk was all about the kids. I was one of only two there who have daughters in the Navy, and I was the one whose child has been in the longest. Yet most of the other moms seemed to know a lot more than I do. I'm going to chalk that up to their being moms of sons, who are by nature reluctant to hand out details, and therefore the moms have to do a lot of research on their own if they want to know anything.
Sweet Girl tells me a great deal, but the information she shares usually has a lot of letters in it that don't make real words, so my eyes tend to glaze over a lot. "My LPO told my XO that I need a BAH form, but no one seems to be....."
I wish I had known about this website when Sweet Girl first signed up. I might have known how to handle it better when she decided a month after signing that she wasn't going. We talked to her recruiter, who said they actually wouldn't MAKE her go if she really wanted to back out. That was news to us. And we kept it to ourselves.
Because we thought that since she had made a commitment with full disclosure, she needed to honor it.
Two weeks before her ship date (I TOLD them giving her seven months to think about it was a bad idea), I went to the recruiter's office with her and pretty much sat there until she agreed to go.
I felt like a terrible mother. What kind of person insists that her only child go off to serve in the military during wartime? I wonder how often that kind of thing happens? It would have been nice to have others to bounce my conflicting emotions off of during that stressful time. Oh, and never mind I was also working on my doctorate. The day I left her at the recruitment center and drove away, I thought the world might come crashing down. But that day actually came a couple of weeks later, when a box arrived at our house and it contained the clothes she had been wearing when I dropped her off.
Another time I could have used a cyber support group was in the fall of '07, right before Sweet Girl was deploying to the Persian Gulf for seven months. It happened that she was leaving just a few days after the annual Georgia-Florida football game, for which tickets come at a premium and during which there are NO PLACES to stay in Jacksonville. At least not ones that mere mortals can afford. I thought it was excellent that my child had a new condo in Jacksonville. She wanted to go to the game, so I bought tickets ON EBAY, FOR GOD'S SAKE for the two of us.
Then two weeks before the game, she decided she didn't want me to come.
"But what about the tickets?"
"Oh, you can just sell them."
Screw that. It's the game of the year. Everybody wants to go to that game. I'm not selling my tickets.
But I clearly had no place to stay. She didn't want to see me before the ship left. In her words, she "didn't want to see me get emotional."
But what about the football game? Really, I'm not the emotional sort, unless it comes down to not going to a football game that I really wanted to go to.
There was no budging her. Little twit. I definitely was NOT calling her Sweet Girl right then.
Katydid bailed me out and said she would go to the game with me, and we drove the six hours down there the morning before the game. There I was, in the same town as my only child, and I didn't get to see her. Katydid and I had a wonderful time, and it was worth every minute of the drive, because FOR ONCE we beat Florida and it was nice to be able to drive home with the flags still on the car. Instead of hiding them under the floormats, which is what we had to do this past year.
But I couldn't get over the fact that my child didn't want to see me. It felt a lot like when my college boyfriend broke up with me. I couldn't get either of them to tell me why. (I should have gotten even with him and made HIM her father.)
We did talk in the few days leading up to her departure, but I was still depressed and hurt and mad and sad and confused and frustrated and full of self-doubt.
She called me at school at 8:00 AM on the day her ship was leaving and said, "They've just closed the doors." I wasn't ready.
And although I was surrounded by friends and family who supported me and sympathized and wanted to swim out into the Atlantic and jump on that aircraft carrier and beat her little butt, it would have been nice to have a support group of moms who had been through that kind of thing before.
I'm keeping that group bookmarked, because I'm almost certain it's not the last time she'll break my heart.
That's my girl, in the middle, manning the rails when the USS Harry S. Truman returned from seven months in the Persian Gulf, June 2008.
I swore I wouldn't be there when the ship returned, but of course I was. Because moms just have to get over it. Navy moms included.