Yesterday was a bad day for me because YK was enlisted into the army. I didn't think it would be so emotionally daunting until it was time for me to leave him behind. Maybe I had been too nonchalant about it. "Come on, it'll be fun! Treat it like a holiday!"
He was mentally prepared. Well, I thought I was.
It started well enough. We boarded a bus, courtesy of the army, to the ferry terminal where we took a 15-minute ferry ride to Tekong Island. At the island, the boys were promptly led away for briefing while I joined the many other parents and visitors for a tour of the facilities.
From our coach, we saw recruits undergoing training - doing leopard crawl, tackling obstacles and marching in the parade square. I felt like we were on a safari. Looking at their newly shaved heads and weary young faces made my heart ache. Some of us waved meekly at the boys with faces covered in a thick layer of camouflage. It is hard to imagine YK's smooth and blemish-free face fully covered in green and black cream.
We stopped at the barrack to have a peek at the sleeping quarters before joining the enlistees in the auditorium. By the time the oath taking ceremony was over, reality had finally sunk in. This isn't a holiday camp nor is it to be taken lightly.
We were allowed to lunch together with our son before saying our goodbyes. That was the hardest part. Tears welled up in our eyes when it was time for me to go. It was that same feeling when I left him at the childcare centre for the first time when he was a 20-month old baby. I remember the fearful look in his eyes.
He is 20 years old, no longer a baby but not quite a man either. He's in an entirely new environment surrounded by strangers and starting right at the bottom. For someone who has been enjoying so much freedom, a regimented life like this is going to take some getting used to.
By now, his hair is gone. He's wearing uniform and out training. The only thing I can do is wait to see him when he books out in 2 weeks.