Perhaps You Didn’t Know


My 18 year old son enlisted in the Marines. Until he completes boot camp, the correct term is “Recruit.” He told his father and I after he signed the contract. We never met with his recruitment officer, as some parents say they do, to learn the things they need to know to survive the 13 weeks of boot camp. We were not invited to his swearing in.

On the day he arrived on Parris Island, the phone rang just after midnight. Both my husband and I were sound asleep. We each had an extension to answer and we picked up simultaniously. Still in a stupor, I heard my son’s load, hoarse, and nervous voice, as though reading a script as quickly as he could, instructing us that he had arrived at Parris Island, in the near future he would send us his mailing address, we were not to mail him any large packages, and he then thanked us for our support as the phone disconnected.

I uttered no words and only fully awoke as the call ended. I immediately¬†Googled “Marines” and “phone call” to learn that many parents expect and look forward to this call, known in Marine circles as “The First Call.” Some of my friends accepted it as a simple reassurance that he had arrived safely. Others quickly pointed out that there was a deeper message (They own your son now.¬†They dictate how he will interact with you, even what he will say.)

That first night, in the five sleepless hours I had until morning, I discovered the Marine web site for new recruit families.¬†They have a page discouraging “helicopter parenting” and they convey the message that it is time to let go.