Navy Dads

(I intended to post this over here - not in General - mods - please remove from General)


Son:   21 years old, in Goose Creek, after graduating from Power School.  My wife and I are pretty upset with our son.   In December, he had an underage drinking incident - was home on leave for the holidays, went to a concert, got drunk with some freinds.  He was masted, lost a rank, and lost pay.  Had also served a restriction to base in SC (he was in the Nuke program).    He had just graduated from Power school.  He was doing well, not EXCELLENT, but well.   Well, inexplicably, after saying how bad he felt, and that he would never do it again - - he went and did it again.  This time - he was two weeks over 21.  Went to Charleston with some friends, at a bar, and got summoned for public drunkenness.   He was masted again, I believe he lost another rank, and was just sent to Jacksonville on Sunday for a two week rehab stint.   He has not received separation papers yet, but - i suspect thats coming.   Can someone here, with knowledge (hopefully not because of 'experience') tell me what to expect ?   We are heartbroken that he has been so careless and reckless.   Fact is - I can't even talk to him.  My wife has been handling communications with him.  He had bombed out of college after 1 year before taking the ASVAP, nuke test, and enlisting in the Navy.  It seemed he really was making an effort to turn his life around.   Now, it seems he has torpedoed his Navy career.   If anyone has any advice or comments, I'd sure appreciate it.  I'm quite certain that if he is booted out, I will not allow him to come back home.  He's had every chance to be successful.  He needs to grow up.   I need some understanding of why, if they are going to separate him, why go to the effort of sending him to the rehab ?  Its really causing a lot of stress on my wife and I.  We are embarrassed and hurt by this.

Thanks in advance

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Replies to This Discussion

SadDad --

(SORRY in advance for this LONG POST!)

While our elder son was at RTC at Great Lakes, I signed up on Navy4Moms for info and was a bit irritated with how many parents (mostly moms, it appeared) sounded "enabling" and were not really prepared to deal with the fact that their sailors were now adults, actually being trained for the world's greatest military force, and would have to -- like the rest of most adults -- experience the real world consequences of their own actions without being "saved" by mom/dad. Having said that, I must say that my recent browsing on NavyDads is quite a different experience.

I think your initial posting clearly shows that you are not one of these helicopter parents I routinely experience working with secondary students and youth groups but are, instead, a well grounded parent genuinely concerned with the welfare of your son. In addition, I believe ALL of the comments I've read thus far in response to your posting are very solid words of wisdom.

I can relate to your disappointment as a PARENT. We have 4 wonderful, intelligent children and they are each as different as night and day in some ways. Parenting -- done correctly -- is the hardest job on earth, period (W-A-Y harder than Nuke school, y'all!). Even when done correctly, we simply cannot completely control what our children will eventually do or become. I know a number of superb, educated, loving parents who have struggled with sons or daughters having been raised in the best of homes and who simply cannot fathom "what has happened to our Jane/John" in his late teens or even well into her 20's. Our son finished his Nuke schooling last week. (You can' imagine how long I've waited to say that!). BUT -- he didn't finish at the top of his high school class or even close (which many predicted would happen while he was in grade school). He DID end up on academic probation his 2nd semester in college, was kicked out for same in his 3rd semester, and eventually repeated that performance after moving home for a bit and re-enrolling in a local university.

I was nervous when he then initially signed up for the Army to work with Patriot missiles. He never really researched any other military possibilities. I was so concerned I called a recruiter acquaintance I knew 7 years ago (who only knew our son when he was in 6th/7th grade) who told me enough to get him to reconsider his decision. I was flabbergasted when he changed his plans and signed up for the Navy's Nuke program (didn't think he shared ANY of his dad's interest in science) .... A program I was later told by some very informed individuals is the hardest academic enlisted program in the military. A school board member with an advanced physics degree eventually told me he'd be just thrilled if his son enrolled in that program instead of going to college. That was the FIRST time some of that fatherly disappointment in his college attempts began to fade away.

As has been said in an earlier post, you really need to give great credit to your son for applying for and getting as far as he did in the Nuke program! He will really need to hear something like THAT from his "disappointed" parents to begin to get his self esteem back. I'm telling you that as a parent that 2-1/2 years ago dropped that son off at a hotel in town and said, "You're welcome back home when you've got a few job applications filled out." .... Something we'd been trying to get him to do in-between those stints in college. Thankfully, he only spent one night in the hotel. I am totally convinced the cause of his (and many other intelligent, capable sons') failure in school was an addiction to computer gaming, not alcohol. ....A cultural plague that we just didn't have to deal with 20 years ago.

Our second son saw his older brother's life track, went away to college for a year, decided that he didn't want to continue in that major, and is now in a 7 month technical training school with the Air Force. Our daughter in-between those two is in postgraduate school, will be making good money when she gets out, and will have a six figure debt to pay off. She has NO sympathy when either of the boys complain about any of their studies or particular situations. :-) She's worked her a-- off since she's been in high school. Like I said, each child's different and I wouldn't have predicted the present paths of any of them when they were in 3rd grade.

Moral of the story .... It is fine, good, and normal for you and wife to be seriously disappointed with your son. However, I'm going to side with those that say you will really need to prop him up, emotionally, and do whatever you can to help him. What I've seen in high school students (and beyond) is that there comes a point when ALL we can do as parents is LOVE them, talk to them (when they let us), and help them from afar while they experience the pains and consequences of real life. And, yes, it sucks that some young people seem to "just get it right away" or others (seemingly undeserving) get in trouble and someone/something comes to their rescue so they never experience these pains, while we ourselves have "done everything right" to ensure this doesn't happen to our child -- and then everything crumbles, so to speak.

We live in a culture where failure isn't dealt with real well, where instant gratification is the be all and end all, and where too many parents define themselves almost strictly by their children's performance. YOU didn't do this to your son but YOU can be there to help him regain his self esteem. I still think you're farther ahead in the parenting curve by NOT being an overly helicopter type, but you and his mom are -- and will always be -- the only parents he's got. I'm betting he'll have lots to say, eventually!, and all this hurt will heal over in time if you show him support at those moments when you can. The relationship between me and my Navy son were quite strained after he'd failed in college and I'm pretty sure he was joining the Army to "get out of the house." I never had to utter the words that eventually came out of his own mouth near the end of Power School:  "You know, if I'd have worked this hard in college, I'm sure I would have had no problem finishing." My response? "Probably." :-)

Twenty one-years-old is VERY young in today's American culture. Think of maybe a junior in high school 30 or 40 years ago. I know well there are exceptions but please consider that when dealing with your #1 son. (Our sailor is 25 y.o and our airman is 20 y.o.) While your second son says he'll "never let you down" please do realize that stuff just sometimes happens. It's really hard to NOT communicate how disappointed we are with one or more of our children's antics when talking to another child, but if/when that happens we also need to be SURE to indicate that we're still going to love and support that offending child. ALL of our communications with our children eventually seem to get to the ears of the OTHER children whether we intend it or not.

I sincerely believe your current level of concern and sorrow, if handled properly, is a sign that you will find the wisdom to help your son in such a way that someday he, too, will tell you out of the blue, "You know, if I hadn't screwed up back then ……" And if you're lucky, he'll be telling you this on the phone -- not in person -- so that you don't have to hide the giant grin that develops likely followed by the tears (like I'm fighting as I'm writing this). Brutal patience, persistent prayers, and maybe even some counseling, if necessary, will all go a long way toward getting you, mom, and son through this time. You know, unlike me and 99% of our citizens, your son will never have to say "No, I never joined the military." That's something that he AND his parents should always be proud of regardless of the outcome!

I am so saddened by this post.  It is a reminder that we are all human, Nuke school is stressful, and everything we do affects somebody else.
I hope you and your wife found a way to help heal yourselves and your son. 

He will be as sad as you, or more.  How he deals with it will determine his future, spirals go down and up, so good luck and hope it is all "climb" and not fall from now out.

He needs you more now than ever. He is the son you used to have and the man you know now. He has just done some thing that few people can say they have done. I know what he had to go through to get through it. Work hard play hard is not a course that all can follow. His new friends may be able to do it. He needs your friendship and respect as a man. Stay close and if you haven't been close before now, it's a good time to start. I have carried many a drunk sailor back to the boat he has shipmates that will watch out for him but they can't replace Family.. Don't worry the Navy is good for people like him. Hell I'm proud of him and I don't even know him. But I'm not his Dad you are.



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