“I Do” – Two Little Words that Changed Our Lives

I realized that the moment my first incoming Plebe took the Oath of Office and said “I do!” over eight years ago that he said it on behalf of our family as well. Our family’s life changed to the single focus of supporting our children – we were also saying “I do!” to the oath and to military life. A good friend of mine told me that the family serves a long their service member and that has become clear over these past several years.

Our lives became consumed with supporting our Plebes and now Officers, and we ride alongside them in the rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, success and failure, of joy and of loss. As I-Day approached we sensed a change in the mood – our Incomings became irritable and quiet. You may find that too. We learned from our wonderful mentors to give them the space they need for introspection and to separate from friends and family and to not take it personally. It is something they have to do on their own.

Another thing that I had not expected is that the Navy family is the largest support network we could have ever asked for. I have met complete strangers at airports around the globe and the sight of that N* or the anchor or the word Navy became a symbol of instant friendship and understanding that transcended everything and forms and instant bond of understanding that is unprecedented. Some of my most meaningful friendships have been forged on the Yard and my closest battle buddies have walked through fire next to me – no need to ask why or what – they just do and I do the same for them.

I had not believed my Dad (USNA ’59) when he told us that during his Plebe Summer, he learned to do things “the Navy way” but it is true! And that means doing things in a very different way than we are used to as “Civilians”. Beginning with friendships and bonds that last a lifetime, to folding laundry, using Navy Speak, to following OPSEC, to being immersed in everything Navy, we are all in as are all Navy families.

This is definitely the road less traveled and is filled with challenges that need to be met, adversity to be overcome, failures – for many their first failures of their lives – that will allow growth and learning from mistakes in order to be stronger and wiser leaders to Never Give Up the Ship. When there is success we are eager to share with the world – and that is where we need to hit the pause button and think about it. The transition from a civilian to a military perspective is one of the first things that we learn about as Navy parents.

For our children that means a change of perspective too. We have always told our own children “be little in your own eyes” – namely, to be humble in all circumstances. For incoming Plebes: it is not necessary for you to be the one with all of the answers even if you know them. And you don’t have to win every time – even if you can! Now it is all about teamwork within your company and your squad. You need to have your fellow Plebes’ back and they need to have yours. The biggest lesson you will learn throughout Plebe Summer is to put others before self.

For us parents, as we prepare to let our children go we want to stay connected. For the first time in our parenting career we will not know every single detail of their day and will not be able to ask them about it for what will seem an eternity! But we are being trained too. There will be times in the future when we will enter the “great black void” as I call it – similar to Plebe Summer, when we just don’t know or hear … anything! And we have to trust the system, our children, and know that no news is good news.

When we finally do hear from them, it is easy to get carried away and post about everything (myself included!) but we do need to learn to be careful of what we post and the information that we make public. It is not a good idea to post SPECIFIC information on locations, times, dates, of where your son or daughter are traveling, where they currently are or where they will be going. This information should not be made easily public or accessible until a much later time. Even in a closed group, and especially as they travel on MOs (Movement Orders) for training or go on ships, bases, etc. it is a good idea to keep this information close. This careful guarding of information is for the safety our sons and daughters, of our families, and potentially even for the safety of their fellow Midshipmen, Navy personnel, and their families. And it is one of the most important things that we need to learn as military parents.

Trust me there are plenty of times when I have posted and immediately hit delete. As much as we wanted to shout our children’s appointments to the world, we skipped the news releases. And although our one of our Officers was interviewed for the local paper before he arrived for I-Day, he purposefully limited the information that he revealed of his own volition.

That also now also applies to us as military parents. For the current class, it will be another modified I-Day experience much akin to what my Dad described when he traveled for almost 24 hours, being an international student, and arrived alone at USNA on I-Day. This is the ideal time to cling to the well worn motto, Semper Gumby – Always Flexible – and that is OK. It is part of the training that we all must endure. As a military parent, I find that change is the only constant. Semper Gumby!

2020 brought a year of changes that significantly evolved the meaning of “Semper Gumby“. Our 2020 former Midshipman and classmates commissioned very differently without the celebration, pomp, and circumstance of a usual Commissioning Week. The Class of 2022 could not enjoy 2/C Parent Weekend, The Class of 2023 could not climb Herndon, the Class of 2021 could not enjoy Ring Dance, and 2024 enjoyed a unique I-Day experience. We have all missed something and have had to go with the flow.

At times, uncertain circumstances can lead to a lot of frustration and it is a good idea to be discerning about what we share, what we say and post, and the frustration that we show. It is a good idea for incoming Plebes and parents to limit the information and what is posted – try to be an observer and get your feet wet before you jump in.

With that said, that does not mean that we do not celebrate joys and successes with our fellow N*avy families. We just need to be judicious about what and how much to share. I discuss OPSEC and social media at length in my book, “A USNA Mom’s Journal: Plebe Summer through Commissioning and Beyond! What You Need to Know“, and have a dedicated post on my USNA MidMoms and More Group and public page and offer insights from our experience that may help as you navigate I-Day, Plebe Summer, and the four years at the Academy.

Welcome Aboard on this amazing journey as a part of the N*avy family! When in doubt feel free to reach out or message your page Admin privately for advice or reach out to someone you can trust with questions. I am always available to help.

You will find a very supportive N*avy community and that many people that you have never met have your back. Those of us that have walked before you are always here to help.

GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!!

Based on the book, A USNA Mom’s Journal: Plebe Summer through Commissioning and Beyond! What You Need to Know, by AN Shine. Copying in whole or in part without the prior consent of the author is strictly prohibited. Copyright 2019.

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