I Won’t Let My Son Join the Military

First things first: I support the troops; I love America and Ford and apple pie and Credence Clearwater Revival; I pledge allegiance to the flag and take my hat off during the national anthem; I hate terrorism and ISIS and think they must be stopped, somehow.

Just not by my son. I don’t want him near a military recruiting office. Not in a million years.

I won’t let my son join the military.

parenting, naps, napping, sleep, newborns, hungry, tired, diapers, dad and buried, funny, humor, dad bloggers, mommy bloggers, motherhood, fatherhood, winter, stress, kids, family, entertainment, boredom, fun, outside, lifestyle, cold, activities, mike julianelle, dads, moms, childrenRight now, the kid’s not even five. He’s too young to express an interest in joining the army, nor do I have any reason to believe he ever will. I don’t care how horrible ISIS is. I don’t care if Hitler is unfrozen and building a zombie brigade. I don’t care if the creatures from Independence Day return to finish the job. I’ll sooner freeze my son in carbonite than let him suit up and join a war.

This is pure selfishness on my part. Much like my post in which I declared that my son will never play football, this stance doesn’t take into account his desires. Right now, he’s still young enough that I don’t need to; I still have control over him. And so I’m allowed to exercise my most selfish qualities, long before any potentially selfless qualities he may develop – selfless qualities that Mom and Buried and I are trying to develop – get in the way.

In 10 years or so, my son might be a stalwart American patriot. He might want to join the armed forces. He might want to serve the country, he might want to be a part of whatever fight we’re inevitably a part of when he’s a young man (maybe even this same one). Maybe, god forbid, there will be an inciting incident that awakens his patriotism, or maybe he’ll grow up under the spell of movies like American Sniper and ads like the ones in which a Marine vanquishes a dragon (for some reason), and he’ll want to join up to protect the American way of life, or defend the world from terrorists or dictators. I have no idea.

But I f*cking hope not.

And even if he does want to, if he feels compelled, feels that joining the military is his calling, I’ll do my best to talk him out of it. I might even break his legs to keep him from going. That may sound gross to many of you, but again: I don’t care. I’m more than willing to be the bad guy here, in your eyes and in his.

I don’t care if he’s brave and I’m a coward. I don’t care if he’s selfless and I’m selfish. I don’t care what positive learning experiences he’d be losing out on, what an amazing man he’d escape being shaped into by not suiting up. I don’t care even care how proud it might make me to see him develop into the kind of person who would willingly put himself in harm’s way in the cause of a greater good.

I’m totally cool with sacrificing some pride so long as it means not sacrificing my son.

This has absolutely nothing to do with politics, or the worthiness of the fight, or with which side is right or wrong. Only an asshole would blame soldiers for the politics of war, and only an asshole overlooks the contributions our troops make every day towards keeping all of us safe, and allowing people like me to write selfish posts like this. I respect those people for putting their country ahead of themselves, even more so because I don’t know how they manage to do it. This is in no way intended as a slight towards anyone who currently serves, or wants to serve, or wants their children to serve.

parenting, masochist, parent abuse, kids, toddlers, funny, bossy, parenthood, moms, dads, humor, dad bloggers, mommy bloggers, dad and buriedThis is merely one parent, wanting to protect and keep his child out of harm’s way for as long as possible. For the same reason I won’t let him play with guns, or ride a bike without a helmet, or use heroin. There’s just too much risk. It’s ridiculous and unfair to compare those activities to joining the military; I know some great people who are who they are because of their service, and I am well aware of the benefits, both tangible and intangible, that separate it from the things I mentioned above. But, again, I can live with my son missing out on those benefits, so long as my son is living.

This whole thing is moot, anyway. I know it will eventually be out of my hands, and my efforts will be irrelevant, and this post will be meaningless. Even now there are countless things I’m powerless to guard him against, and when he’s older, I will hardly have the option. I’m not a helicopter parent, I won’t be accompanying my son to college, I can’t be looking over his shoulder forever.

I’ll be proud of my son no matter what he does, whether he opts to join the military one day or not.

But I’ll also move to Canada tomorrow if that’s what it takes to keep him out of a war.

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30 thoughts on “I Won’t Let My Son Join the Military

  1. Mike,

    Great post. Many years ago I would have written EXACTLY the same thing. I know the feelings of wanting to protect my kids (all 8 of them) and how I died a little bit inside with the decisions that some of them made. The stepped out of *my* comfort zone and did things I would never have been able to do. I also know EXACTLY how you’re feeling, because Hectic 19 joined the U.S. Army Reserves just after his Senior year or High School started. He was in the running for full athletic scholarships to several universities as well as three of the service academies. When he opted to sign the contract with the Reserves, he set his training up so that he would have to postpone starting college until the Spring of this year. That meant the athletic scholarships were off the table.

    I had counseled to wait to sign his contract until after all his offers were fully displayed on the table. I then hoped that I could convince him that there was a pathway to service *after* college.

    But his decisions were his decisions. I died a little bit (ok, honestly, a lot) when he shipped out for Basic training. I died a little more when we were only able to see him for 36 hours between the 10 weeks of basic and the 16 weeks of Advanced Individual Training. And I started to lose heart after we were pretty much out of communication over the entire 26 weeks.

    Believe me, I’m no recruiting officer. Nor am I a “poster Dad” for the military. But I also know that I did everything I could to raise my kids so they would be great people. I raised them to help those in need. To exceed my expectations. And theirs.

    I taught them, with everything that I have, to be kind and gentle. Selfless and strong. To fill the gap when someone needs protection. To reach out a hand when somebody needs a lift.

    And when you do that, you end up with kids in the Peace Corps or the Military. With kids who will give up their seat on a plane to an elderly gentleman who was on standby, no matter that it meant 48 additional hours of travel. Kids who will leave an entire suitcase full of brand new clothes for a family that needed them. Kids who will give anybody and everybody a lift in their car…sometimes driving hours out of the way. And all along, they’re taking risks that are way outside *my comfort zone*.

    I applaud you for writing such a heartfelt post. I am in awe of your willingness to open yourself to the slings and arrows of people who haven’t thought this through. And honestly, I’m jealous that you put words to the way that I’ve felt as each of my kids has made decisions that impact their lives.

    In the end, it’s up to our kids to make their life choices…but that doesn’t mean that we can’t do every damned thing we can to guide them. At the end of the day, I also have to trust that God is watching over each of my kids…because I sure as heck can’t be everywhere.

    While you can, hug on your son. Teach him by example. And know that you’re a much more powerful influence that the outside world will ever be!

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I am well aware that at a certain point, my desires become moot and my control evaporates. And that’s what’s so scary. Of course, this is merely where I stand right now; things, including my viewpoint, can change.

      And as I said in the post, I know I’ll be proud of him should he go this route, especially if he behaves the way the men you described above do!

      Thanks for reading!

  2. Wow – you took the words right out of my mouth, from my brain. Yes, I respect out troops. I’m proud of them. Oh my God ISIS must be stopped. But not by my two sons. (Or my two daughters). I even understand the leg breaking. And I am Canadian. We have brave soldiers fighting ISSI now. You should read my book Text Me, Love Mom – I’m honestly not trying to flog it here. But I think we ‘parent’ (new verb) the same. Mine have made it through my bubble wrap and are twenty-something film makers and artists and do love their country. When they were teens I told them I didn’t do ‘all this’ so they could go join the army – to which of course, one son said – but I’ll go if I want to. May the force be with you Dad.

  3. Okay. Just read Jeff Page, who probably is not unlike Dad and Buried and myself and it is painful this parenting at times. Of course, I’d be proud of the son or daughter, who choice what I could not choose for them.

  4. As a Military man and soon to be father I can appreciate where you are coming from. Before finding out I was going to be a dad I probably would have been upset reading this blog post. It’s is going to be hard to discourage my daughter to join up if that’s what she wants to do. Especially since daddy did it. Did I do a lot of awesome stuff so far in my 12 year career? Heck yes! At the same time my hopes are that if she does join it is because she wants to. I don’t want her to feel that she has to join just because I did. I want her to have every opportunity to not have to join just to get school tuition paid for. I want for her to be a doctor or business woman, anything but a service member. I serve so she doesn’t have to. I sacrifice for her.

  5. I grew up much the same way, in a house where the military option was pretty much off the table. I’ll probably take it off the table for my son as well. He’s 2, so I’ve got some time.

    I’ve got all the respect in the world for those who serve. They are heroes. But I’m with you. Don’t want my son near it. As usual, nice post.

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  11. If I were you don’t push too hard. My parents did the same thing and I had to get out anyway because of injury, but my mind was set and I was going to join. Reserves but still enlist. I didn’t care what they said or did, but I wanted to and I didn’t care about anything but doing what I thought was right. Good soldiers die out there and I thought who am I to give less. That was my drive, it was my goal or even a dream to give at least one contract term. If I had not gotten injured that ended it all, I would be at boot or even earned the title. It’s harder on the parents than it is on the recruit, but always be proud. They are doing what so few have the bravery and courage to do. It is still depressing me that I haven’t fulfilled my dream, if my son or daughter wanted to go in…it would be hard to let go, but I would never be so proud of him/her.

  12. If everyone said “not MY son,” or “not MY daughter,” who would be left to serve? What kind of country would we have? I don’t think it matters one bit whether you say the Pledge of Allegiance or take your hat off during the national anthem–those are just words. Words don’t make you a responsible citizen. Anyone can flap their soup coolers.
    Yes, war is a highly politicized topic; and yes, warmongers make money off of the lives of our children. But people like my husband and me sign up because we want to serve our country despite the ignoble parts of war. We believe in our country more than you ever will (you special snowflake, you).
    You say you’re cool with sacrificing some pride just so long as you don’t have to sacrifice your son. Are you cool with sacrificing HIS pride? Because that’s what’s really at stake (but you don’t really care about his pride, do you? It’s all about you).
    Wouldn’t it be the ultimate irony if he broke YOUR legs as you tried to stop him from showing up at MEPs on his 18th birthday?

    1. so those of us who did not sign up for join the military are not as Patriotic as those who did? Because that is the basic message the “Anonymous” reply is sending. (And if you are so proud of your stance, why anonymous, Anonymous?) He is merely expressing his fears of his child, and he also comments on the fact that if his child does decide to join the military when they are an adult and are making their own decisions, he would be as equally proud if his son made a different decision.

      And the name calling….good of you to get that in there.

  13. At what point do you decide that one person (slash, leader) in a wold of 7 billion people should decide what sort of risks to put your own child under? What exactly are you trying to gain freedom from? Freedom from investments, laundering, bullying, slavery, greed. How about no participating in that game and having a family instead? I am trying to get it but don’t understand how killing one family’s “evil” children prevents the other family’s “evil” children from eliminating all of our evil grandchildren. Are babies or toddlers really born so evil that they want to kill other babies or toddlers? Maybe there is another way to intervene, at a higher human level.

  14. Do to my 17 yr old son’s mother dying in 2009 I have had to raise him alone. We don’t have much of a family at all and that has led to us being really closer than the normal father son relationships I’ve seen. He has always had the reputation of being a very respectful kid, and has always made me proud for the very most part. But he has hit me with the news of a recruiter coming to his school and talking to all the other seniors so now he wants to join the Army. I have always told him that I am thankful of our freedom in this country and very thankful for all that who have gave their lives for us to have this freedom… But I absolutely do not trust nor like the government that we are all under. I could go on and on about all the corruption but no need. He has worked hard the past 3 years to get his welding certificate and now this recruiter has snatched it all out from under our feet. First of all I feel that recruiters should not be allowed to speak to young minds without their parent being present. I have been the one to guide him his whole life and it’s just not right that some stranger can come in to make a puppet out of my son. Although he will be 18- an adult in another year, I know him and he is my baby, and at this age they can be persuaded into alot of things concerning their future. I understand letting him fly and learning his way, and that’s what he has been doing since he started driving. I just feel that its too early in life and not fare after all these years of keeping him safe are gone thanks to that recruiter…

  15. My son was born with a disability he was taken at 18 by my husband who is a member of organized crime and a military recruiter named Anderson in jersey city NJ
    He was enlisted to Navy I failed to protect my son from these criminals I am devastated by what has happened
    Lia Genardi. Rutherford Nj

  16. The problem with the world today is that we do not allow our children to follow their passion. Parents out of love or need to preserve their egos, try to direct their children away from getting dirty, figuring out their own problems or being engaged in life by following their passion. US parents over manage the trajectory of their children–treating them as possessions as opposed to thinking and responsible adults. As a result many of our children grow up defining reality by scores from video games, having little or no emotional resilience, and having lower immunity thru their antibacterially scrubbed life.

    At some point, we have to let our children live their own lives and yes, make their own mistakes. Good parenting is about constantly saying good-bye. When our children become adults, our roles change. We must become interested witnesses.

    My only child, my very educated daughter is making a choice to enter the military. As a child of the Vietnam era, I watched the body bags come home dead to my military town-I know. But I also know, that there are many types of deaths other than the physical. I can not deny what my daughter calls, “investing in the common good.” I am scared when I see the two potential commander-in-chiefs…But, I can not make decisions solely based on my fears. Fear is the true denial of self and the denial of human greatness that resides in us all. The boomers (my generation) were poor stewards for our country. Perhaps my values need to change. Perhaps, my daughter and her peers need to do “their thing.” I am accepting my daughter’s decision to live her own life. I pray daily for her safety and happiness.

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  18. Wait so he is 5? You have no reason to believe this is going to happen? You sound like a nut who is looking for validation for being overbearing/controlling and totally selfish. Luckily for him that choice isn’t yours to make and just to spite you I hope he does fancy a career in the military.

  19. You are a gutless piece of garbage and i hope he grows to hate your guts
    You are the problem in this country and like a disease on society
    You are the same scum that accepts everybody freely in this country but locks thier doors at night you dont deserve to live under the blanket provided by our great armed forces and should get your disgusting ass on a plane soon as possible and i hope ge never talks to your ass again

  20. I hope with the recent Navy ship accidents anyone thinking of joining decides against this.The Navy is not safe people falsely believe it is.A parent who lost their son on
    USS Fitzgerald discouraged son from joining Army so he joined Navy. The military is a disgrace they prey on innocent children and lie to them about everything .They even try to recruit the disabled . They should be ashamed

  21. Your post is exactly how I feel. I am a parent to a son who is in his 20’s now. I am not a helicopter parent however the military ( or police or fireman for that matter) is not what I wanted him to do. Many of his friends joined the military at 18 or 19. I spent years telling him to always respect the military, the flag and the soldiers that fight but if he ever thought of joining I would disown him. He is a good kid and never got in trouble and when he went with his friends to the recruiting office he said he would think about joining. He went back to the recruiting office 2 days later and told the recruiting officer he would not be joining. When the recruiting officer asked why, my son said that it wasn’t a choice for him and that his mom would kill him. The recruiter offered to speak with me and my son told him he was doing him a favor by not putting him in front of me. My son told me about this whole scene 15 months AFTER it happened. Never under estimate the power and values you instill in your children whether they are right or wrong. Children are always learning what you teach them even if it doesn’t appear they are listening.

  22. Do you feel to join the army? i am one of the army men in U.S will want people to join us in U.S will have help so much people and day are happy about it if you and interested to join the U.S army you can send a message to this email johnmikle22@gmail.com by name john mikle you can help us send this message to all your friends and love ones hope to see your message thanks.

  23. I realize that this is an old post and maybe no one will ever see this but I am ex army and my husband is ex marine. Our nineteen year old son has decided to join the military. We talked to him about the pros and cons. We were honest about the treatment he could expect to receive while serving and after he gets out. He agreed to finish college and go in as an officer. Part of raising children is trusting that you have taught them enough to make good decisions. While we would prefer that he didn’t join the military because of the current leadership and the political climate of this world, we realize that he is an adult and we respect his adult decision. He is informed and understands the sacrifice that may be asked of him. Be honest with your child. The government is dishonest. Our children’s lives are not valuable to people in power. The care that a soldier receives after serving is not adequate and once a soldier is no longer of service to the military, they will be forced out one way or another. But, the values of selflessness, duty, and loyalty are learned no where better than serving alongside brothers and sisters in uniform and ultimately it is a personal decision.

  24. My son is five and is determined to be just like his father. His father is a 20 year Army veteran. The day my son told me he wanted to join the Army I was both proud and heartbroken. Proud that my son has a father he is proud of, and heartbroken because I see what being in the military does to a person. A family.
    I understand the selfishness that comes from not wanted your child to join the military. Of one of your sons do join, be proud for them. And discourage it as much as you can.
    I’m a proud Army wife, proud daughter of a Marine, proud granddaughter of an Army veteran, and have no wish to add military mom to my name.

  25. I can honestly say my dad was like you. It was off the table and never discussed. Unfortunately I felt the call to enlist during my freshman year of college during Operation Iraq Freedom. Not much my father could do at that point. I was 18 and had enlisted without them ever knowing. I came home one weekend announcing I was dropping out of college and leaving for boot camp.

    My journey didn’t last long. I was injured while at boot camp. Came home and met the love of my life. I have a beautiful son and am a teacher. I still feel like I serve my country, but teaching social studies instead. Even as a female my dad wasn’t able to stop me. But and it’s a big but he supported my decision by being there for me at MEPS.

    Having a son I understand where you are coming from. Know that sometimes you are called upon to do things that you might never have thought of before. If I had never enlisted, became injured and moved back home I would not have met my husband.

    PS. I do agree with you on the football thing. Even if I have a 4 ft, 85 lb 6 year old. Football is a no go

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