No military parent wants to see their kid on CNN with the caption, “Porn to pay tuition.”
If your military kid is going to be famous, you might hope it is because they are someone like basketball great David Robinson. Or Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon. Or Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins.
You might hope the child you raised gets ten minutes in the spotlight for pulling a child from a burning building. Or revamping a troubled inner city school.
You don’t hope that your Duke student starts calling herself “Belle Knox” and announces she will pay her $60,000 a year tuition by performing in the porn industry, right?
You don’t hope your daughter will be compelled to reveal that her father is a military doctor who just returned from Afghanistan, do you?
Maybe I’m soft. Maybe I should use this story as an excuse to be haranguing military parents right about now.
But to tell you the truth, when this story hit the news my first thought was: those poor people. My second thought was: that poor kid.
In my job I meet so many military parents who are devoted to their children. I meet some crappy parents, too. But for the most part, I see how we are a community of people who care about our kids. We want the best for them.
And it ain’t easy to raise kids in the military. I used to think that it was. I used to be one of those moms who thought there was an exactly right way of raising kids.
I used to think that if I made these kids eat squishy green vegetables and dragged them off to school and trundled them to basketball and took them to visit their grandparents and read to them and played with them and told them how much I loved them before I kissed them goodnight, then they would turn out exactly right.
That doesn’t always happen. The older I get and the older my friends get and the older all of our kids get, the more I see that no one can control all the things teens and young adults do.
You can try. We do try. But lately I see that for every military kid that gets into Duke or Stanford or the Naval Academy, there is a kid who gets kicked out of college for a heinous alcohol incident. Or gets arrested for grand theft auto. Or is committed to an institution to try to get a handle on their depression or drug addiction or bipolar disorder.
Those troubled kids might be kids you knew who were troubled all along. Those troubled kids might be the children of troubled parents. Those troubled kids might be the ones who got into Duke or Stanford or the Naval Academy.
Where I used to be so sure of myself when my kids were little, I am less sure now. Too many things besides parenting happen to young adults for any one parent to control.
Sometimes I think of rock legend Jim Morrison of The Doors. His father was Navy Admiral George S. Morrison who commanded the fleet during the Vietnam war—a time where men were judged as leaders by the way they controlled their families.
Their relationship was rocky to say the least. According to Admiral Morrison’s obituary in the New York Times, Jim’s rebellion was met with blank incomprehension from his father.
Admiral Morrison is quoted as saying: “I had the feeling that he felt we’d just as soon not be associated with his career. He knew I didn’t think rock music was the best goal for him. Maybe he was trying to protect us.”
That puzzlement, that bewilderment, that sifting through the past is something I think the parents of troubled military children must do all the time. It is what you do when you care about your kids and do your best for them and release them into the world.
You hope for the best for your kids. And sometimes hope is not enough.