Editor’s notebook | Reflections of a new Navy dad

Bob Smith

Ask any parent. If there’s one constant in raising kids, it’s that the time they share with you under one roof is short. Amazingly short.

Transitioning from diapers to driving lessons happens in the blink of an eye. And alas, I wasn’t able to adjust the laws of physics so my son Blake could lean into adulthood at a nice, leisurely pace.

A short stretch as a college student left him puzzled and less sure than ever about what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.

Not much of an academic, Blake found his school experience something to be endured, not celebrated. Homework was a daily struggle; he would rather tinker out in the garage with some car parts, diagnosing whatever ailed his well-traveled Chevy Tahoe.

So when I casually suggested during a few heart-to-heart talks that he consider joining a branch of the Armed Forces, Blake didn’t dismiss it out of hand. But he surprised me last year with the announcement that he had enlisted in the U.S. Navy; his decision jolted me, since his earlier ambitions seemingly pointed him in other directions.

Blake’s life choice wasn’t half-hearted. I saw a once-discouraged young guy become transformed into an excited, ready-to-roll, soon-to-be Navy recruit.

Blake’s day of transformation took place at the end of June when he flew to Recruit Training Command Great Lakes, north of Chicago. As he took part in eight weeks of intensive training, I was a jumbled mess of anxiety and anticipation — a parent wanting to lift every failure and setback from his shoulders, but brimming with pride and excitement about the possibilities of the future.

Except for a couple of brief phone calls and some letters, his mom and I were left to wonder how he was doing. Was he discouraged? Had he stumbled during the endless test-taking of basic training? Why in the world, Blake might be wondering, had he chosen to become a sailor?

Those questions were answered, and my anxiousness allayed, when I flew to Chicago to watch Blake graduate with 600 of his fellow recruits several weeks ago. Marching in unison in their dress uniforms, the recruits demonstrated their newly acquired skills in the cavernous, oversized gymnasium-style building at Great Lakes.

After the graduation ceremony ended, Blake — always slender and lean — appeared to have lost 15 pounds during training. Meeting up with his mom and me, his smile said it all: Blake announced that he had passed muster with his superiors — and had excelled.

As a newly minted Navy dad, I’m relieved to know this now-grown and still-maturing young man had met — and exceeded — the gauntlet of trials and tribulations the Navy had placed before him.

He’s now at work on his next goal: training at “A school” in Pensacola, Florida, to inspect aircraft pilot-seat ejection systems.

Just as importantly for this proud dad, Blake conquered the seeds of doubt inside him, and has steeled himself for many more challenges that lie ahead.

Bob Smith is regional editor for Kitsap News Group. Contact him at rsmith@soundpublishing.com.

Blake, then.

… and Blake, now.

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