It’s been nine months to the date that I first become a military mom. Since then, another son has gone into national service (NS) as well and I am a little bit more educated on the different terms and abbreviations during NS talks around the house. Still, my sons get impatient when I mix up the sections, platoon, company etc. I can’t differentiate between the different schools, the different ranks and other nomenclature associated with military. So my only contribution to the conversation is, how’s the food this week? Credits must be given to the boys as they listed out the daily menu – Tekong has the worst food, OCS the best. Bedok camp has more spicy food.
During the past nine months, I have visited Pulau Tekong twice, toured Pasir Lebar Camp and OCS at SAFTI, attended three Passing-Out-Parades (POP) with another one scheduled for this Saturday and will probably attend a few more events in the next one year. (I even attended a POP for NCC students at the Singapore Indoor Stadium early this year for Aaron. Must be a record for any parent!)Mike lugs his camera around to all the family events. He did not have much photographs of his NS days and hopes the boys will at least have these photos to cherish when they are older. At one BMT POP, a Malay couple commented with envy at how far Mike’s lens could zoom in on the boys in the parade ground. They requested for Mike to zoom in on their son, ‘the only Malay in the platoon. Must be very easy to spot.’ We parents soon discovered that after BMT, all NS boys acquire the same tan and dark looks, regardless of race. Luckily we managed to spot the son and Mike took a few shots for them and emailed to them after the POP.
Being a military mom means doing loads of laundry every weekend. My brother and friends of both sexes chided me for that. The males claimed they did their own laundry during their time at NS. I know Mike didn’t, because my mother-in-law told me she sent them out to the laundromat to be starched and ironed. It’s so much easier nowadays for me – no starching and ironing. To be fair, the boys load their own laundry upon their return. I have the arduous task of hanging, sorting and folding the uniforms for them, made harder because the two boys share the same name tag – Toh Y H. Once, I mistakenly put Aaron’s NCC uniform into Ivan’s pile. We had to drive all the way to Pasir Lebar camp to retrieve the uniform from Ivan for Aaron’s CCA the next day.
Field camps mean added washing. The bags, shoes, helmets and other un-identifiable objects needs to be deodorized. I couldn’t get the odour out of Andreas’ helmet after his recent POP march, and at the spur of the moment, dismantled everything – padding, belts, pads. I got rid of the smell but we couldn’t put the helmet back. A neighbour saved the day by lending us her son’s helmet. Andreas and I spent the night assembling the helmet together like jigsaw.
The house is quiet without the boys. Aaron commented that it’s been a long while since our Toyota Picnic is full. One consolation is that my PUB bills has reduced by $200! The boys are also more acceptance to all my hugs during greetings and farewells.
I am happy that the two boys are enjoying NS. They come back with stories of adventures that they’ll never get to do if not for NS, like repelling down from a helicopter, or jumping into a pool from a 3 metre high diving board. Touching are stories about bonding and friendships. There are funny stories too, like how this hawker in Taiwan could locate the boys in the middle of nowhere to sell them food, (In the date quiet of the night, suddenly we hear the sound of scooter arriving.) or how a super kiasu boy in the bunk would wake up an hour earlier and turned on all the lights, and switched off all the lights half an hour earlier when everyone was still packing.
Yes, there were unpleasant moments too, like being assigned toilet duty for the whole of BMT, or getting an unreasonable senior. So, how do you cope, I asked them? Just accept the situation and make the best of it, after all, it’s only for a short period. I was so proud when I heard the positive attitudes they showed, having read all the complaints and gripes from many unhappy people who had gone through NS.
Slowly but surely, my boys are turning into men.