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So upset re 17yr old son [sad]

(54 Posts)
williquit Sun 02-Oct-11 13:11:52

I am a namechanger, fairly long-standing poster, don't want situation recognised in outside world as yet.

DS1 - 17, 18 in 5 weeks, is about to voluntarily withdraw from the RAF - he has been in basic training for 4.5 weeks, and this week has basically emotionally broken down and decided he can't handle the self-sufficiency or pressure. His training according to his Flight Staff is going extremely well, and he is reaching a high standard - no concerns at all apart from a couple of ligament strains which are extremely fix-able.

We had no inkling anything was wrong until Thursday when he rang me in floods of tears and sent an extremely emotional text saying he can't do it any more etc. He has been home for the weekend, partly on compassionate grounds as he has been put back a couple of weeks for failing a test as he was resting in the medical centre at the time (crying, vomiting, etc) Over the weekend, he is citing some briefings he has had as the main reason, apparently they have drummed into them from day one that regardless of the trade they have chosen (in his case aircraft maintenance) they have a high chance of being put on the front line to fight or be expected to travel 'in theatre' and be at risk of being blown up by an IED. He WAS aware he is a soldier first - no-one could have done more preparation or research since the age of about 13 than him into all it entails, this was all he wanted and there was no 'Plan B', however they have basically made him think he is at high risk of being severely disabled or worse, regardless of whether he is anything from regiment to a chef.

Anyway, the ins and outs are irrelevant. We have spent 36hrs going over everthing, and it just makes him more resolute to pull out. But what now?? He is almost 18, with only GCSE's and an NVQ in Public Services, he quit sixth form when his RAF application was at a very advanced stage and the school wouldn't keep him on basically as he wasn't commited, He has a reasonably good list of vocational accolades including his D of E gold - but in this climate, what chance at all has he of finding any sort of job, when, basically, he has quit school and his first job? DH will not entertain the idea of him going to college - he has missed the enrolment dates anyway, and is insisting he goes all-out to find work, but in the same breath insists there are absolutely no jobs out there for teens, especially ones who have a history of unreliability. sadsad We both feel he is making an enormous mistake - this is an unparalleled oportunity with concerns which he is refusing to put into context. We also feel that the girlfriend is a not-insignificant factor but he denies this.

I am absolutely devastated for him. We thought the future was going in one direction, and in a few short weeks and completely out of the blue, it has taken the completely opposite direction. Whilst I can see DH's point of view, it doesn't solve anything and I am frightened, quite frankly, and confused.

ivykaty44 Sun 02-Oct-11 13:17:41

firstly - this must be really hard for you all.

secondly why on earth is your dh against your ds going to college? How can someone else decide for an adult what they can and can't do? This isn't acceptable it isn't your dh life and he will push your ds away. Is there no comprimise part time job and part time college?

You can still get into college if you really want to and it may be the making of your ds so please can you talk to your dh and see why he is so aderment that what he says goes

Hulababy Sun 02-Oct-11 13:18:20

Why on earth will his father not encourage him to return to college and continue his education there? Just seems like your DH is trying to punish your son for making an error in his first choice - poor lad! I really cannot understand your DH's point of view at all. He really cannot be helping with such a poor attitude towards your son's next steps.

Your son is an adult. He should be allowed to make his own choices, and yes - his own mistakes too.

Surely the most sensible next step is for your DS to come home and see some form of guidance worker. It would make sense to me for him to go back to college as soon as he can - maybe January, or even next September, getting a temp job until he can.

yellowraincoat Sun 02-Oct-11 13:19:42

First of all, I think you all need to calm down. He won't be the first 17 year old who has no idea what it is they really want to do. In fact, I had a friend who joined the RAF at 18, quit after a few months for v similar reasons and is now a very successful engineer. If he drops out, it will probably be a bit rubbish for a bit, but it doesn't mean he'll never amount to anything.

How long does he have to make this decision? Is there someone he can talk to at the RAF about it?

I think the main thing is to remain calm. It is really not the end of the world whatever happens. Worse case scenario, he can get bar/waiting work for a year and go to college next year.

eatyourveg Sun 02-Oct-11 13:23:36

So sorry to read your post. Enrollment may be over but the first 6 weeks are fluid (in my college anyway) and at half term everyone is reassessed to make sure they are on the right course and if not, they change. Look on teh website of your local college and see what they do there.

BeaOnSea Sun 02-Oct-11 13:46:18

I had a friend who's DS was the same age as your son when he dropped out of the RAF. He just didn't seem to be mature enough to cope with the discipline & being away from home etc.

He went back to study his A Levels, then a degree in engineering. He went back into the RAF in his mid twenties and now absolutely loves it.

My own DS has wanted to be a pilot since he was about 5. He always talked about going into the RAF but changed his mind at 16. I think it was a combination of the reality of war and him not feeling "ready". He is now at Uni studying Aeronautical Engineering with Pilot Studies.

There are options for your DS but I think he (& probably you & your DH) needs a period of time to really consider what he wants to do next.

ChippingIn Sun 02-Oct-11 13:52:27

Oh dear sad

What a difficult decision for him to have to make. However, as Bea just said, it needn't be the end of his RAF career.

As others have said, he is def not the only 17/18 year old in this position.

Why is your H against him going to college - I don't understand that at all?

Thumbwitch Sun 02-Oct-11 14:00:26

Poor boy! His lifetime dream isn't working out for him and his parents think he is making the wrong decision by pulling out of something that has him in floods of tears.


I think he should try and get back into college - I cannot for the life of me see why your DH is being so hardline about this. There will be dropouts, there will be openings - not all colleges are so oversubscribed that there aren't spaces, especially for someone like your DS who sounds like a good lad.

If he was going to do aircraft maintenance in the RAF, can he not do some kind of similar mechanical maintenance course? there must be some courses that would offer similar. Look here to see what is available in your local area. If it requires more qualifications than your DS already has, then he can spend this year getting the ones he needs.

I hope when you have all calmed down you can find a way to help him move forward.

mumeeee Sun 02-Oct-11 14:38:24

I feel sorry for all of you as I know it can be hard to support your teens at times. But the one I feel moat sorry for is your son. His dream hasn't worked out and I think it's better for him to pull out now rather than later when he might fell even worse.
Why doesn't your DH want him to go to college? Colleges except all ages. My 19 year old is at college and the students on her course range from 16 to 21. Also even though the enrolment dates have past He might still be able to get a place. Sone students drop out after the first few weeks or don't take up the place at all. Get him to phone the colleges. I know you and your DH are very upset but your son needs a lot of support at the moment.

t0lk13n Sun 02-Oct-11 14:43:24

I think your son has done the sensible thing and realised before signing himself in for service, that it isn`t for him. My son wants to join the RAF Regt and I think he won`t make it as he has a quiet personality but I will let him find that out for himself and support him when he makes the decision. Let us know what happens X

allhailtheaubergine Sun 02-Oct-11 14:50:10

Very, very brave of your son to admit he has made a mistake.

SecretSquirrels Sun 02-Oct-11 14:50:37

Poor lad.
It sounds as though he has made the wrong choice. Surely better to acknowledge that now rather than 6 months or a year down the road.
Colleges have barely started the term, I'm sure he could find a place to pick up where he left off.

mrsgboring Sun 02-Oct-11 14:56:21

He didn't "quit school" as such, but followed another opportunity which he now wants to withdraw from. He had to show such toughness and commitment just to get into the RAF, and that all still counts.

His experience and achievements so far are very good and there is no reason at all why he can't make a change at this stage.

You are allowed to Change Your Mind!

He sounds very impressive to me, and I'm sure he will succeed in another area once he works out exactly what he wants, and in the meantime it is perfectly okay to do something, anything else. FWIW I had a very considered career choice which I followed with dedication until it made me miserable and ill. I should have jacked it in earlier (before I had a stupid accident because I was so upset and tired on a daily basis). The next thing I did was a university course that I picked more or less on a whim, just so that I had something to do, and that worked out brilliantly for me in the end.

LikeACandleButNotQuite Sun 02-Oct-11 15:01:21

What about taking a year or so to work on a SUmmer Camp? My DH was all set for the army at 16/17, then became so dissillusioned with it, couldn't bear the way they (in his words) break everyone down in order to re-build them into the characters needed.

He signed up, completeley on a whim to PGL, activity camps, done about 10 months with them where he became trained in a tonn of outdoor ed stuff, then I joined him the following year after uni, then we both did another year at a second camp, where the training was even more extensive, with the option to do Mountain Leader courses etc.

Im not saying "its the right path for everyone" but is a hell of an experience, wth tonns of training, hard graft and a load of fun. Im not even remoteley outdoorsy, but became qualified in things id never even tried before: canoeing, ropes etc.

The time away is good exeperience also, and independence is gained in a reatively 'safe' environment. Maybe he could have a look into that?

yellowraincoat Sun 02-Oct-11 16:04:48

If he does decide to quit, could he do a ski season in France or Germany? He'd have fun, make friends, learn to be a bit independent, learn to ski, learn new skills...could be a good opportunity for him.

Or PGL as suggested above.

cory Sun 02-Oct-11 19:13:56

All my 3 brothers changed course during their late teens/early twenties: all of them have done extremely well in life and had successful careers. I am sure parental support has counted for a lot.

Your dh needs to get his act together and see his son for what he is: a sensible young man who will admit that something is wrong before he ends up in a situation where he could put others at risk. Imagine if he stuck it out through fear of losing face and then had a breakdown when he is supporting the frontline.

If he can get into the RAF in the first place then he must have qualities that he could put to good use elsewhere.

kitya Sun 02-Oct-11 19:37:32

Is your husband ex forces by any chance?

lucysmum Sun 02-Oct-11 19:42:27

when i watched the sandhurst program i thought that the ones who had the guts to quit when they knew it was not for them were incredibly brave - particularly the one whose dad was a vicar and couldn't face killing people. what a thing to admit when you were going to be an army officer. He must be feeling awful and need your support however you both feel inside.

GnomeDePlume Mon 03-Oct-11 07:53:40

Your son is going through an induction crisis. Google it and you will find that it is very normal to struggle and to question his choice. I am guessing that your son will have been through air cadets. This will have seen him through the first couple of weeks when his colleagues who didnt do this will have been running around like headless chickens. Now it's your son's turn. It is no coincidence that this emotional crisis has occurred at the same time as a physical crisis. The time in the medical centre has given your son time to stop and think which isnt always helpful during basic training.

Is there anyway that you can get someone connected with his training to have a serious talk with your son. Yes, your son is joining the military and if it does hit the fan then he will be expected and must be ready along with the best of them to do his duty for his mates. However, he wont be put in this position until he is ready.

Is it possible for your son to complete basic training and have another think then?

Abra1d Mon 03-Oct-11 08:15:01

I agree that it might be good for him to complete basic training before making a final decision, either way. These crises can't be unusual.

fraktious Mon 03-Oct-11 09:04:56

I showed this to DH (military) who says:

If he can complete (even with no intention to stay) he should because then he won't have unfinished business hanging over him and wonder 'what if'

In theatre means going to a potentially unstable country, yes, but they don't stick you out in the middle of nowhere. Military camps are safer than walking through a dodgy neighbourhood physically, it's the psychological stress which is difficult.

Following on, basic training is the time to come to terms with a) following orders unquestioningly because your life may depend on it one day and b) facing up to mortality - both yours and other people's.

Apparently most people go through this but he needs to talk to someone in the RAF (and they will have psychologists etc if he wants, there is no shame in it and the psych here said his busiest posting was when he was detached to training so it must be pretty common).

If he can't do it then he has tried, the reality was different to what he expected, he can go get a job or go to college with his head held high and show that he knows himself well enough and gas the maturity to admit when something isn't working.

Poor you and poor him though sad

unnumpty Mon 03-Oct-11 09:20:38

If it were me, I'd be delighted. I'd rather have a ds at home/in the UK, with legs still attached to body. Honestly, though, messing about/changing your mind at this age isn't a tragedy; better than being rigid and miserable. I bet loads of us on here were all over the place at that age. (Not me, though... no, sireeeee....hmm)

thederkinsdame Mon 03-Oct-11 09:30:06

Please support him. He is frightened and confused and it will have taken a lot for him to call you and tell you it all feels wrong. Changing his mind about his future does not make him a failure. What he needs now is support - to know that you are behind him and someone is on his side. It might take him a while to find out what he wants to do. Why not strike a deal with him - he spends the rest of the year working in any job to support himself, then enrols in college next September. Show him that if he makes the effort that there are other options, but he needs to show you guys that he is serious about finding another path.

unnumpty Mon 03-Oct-11 10:06:18

Yes, I agree with thederkinsdame re the courage to say no. I was a mess at his age, it was treated as a catastrophe, it wasn't; I found my heart's desire and have had a great career as a result. I'm sure he'll be the same.

mumsamilitant Mon 03-Oct-11 11:19:19

My heart goes out to the lad. Was all this really his dream or your DH's? It's very ok to change your mind at his age. Get him home asap and show him loads of love and support.

Sorry, but I'd like to kick your DH up the kyber!

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