A Heart in Tatters

My family’s journey has come to an end at USNA. Our last Mid commissioned as a member of the Class of 2020.  Thinking about what that means and where I am going to pour my energy next is at the top of my list with prayers for clarity and wisdom. The other thing I have been doing is reminiscing about our journey with our children and with several I-Days coming up next week, I could not help but remember what you might be thinking and how you may be feeling right now…

I remember the tears that would flow unexpectedly and frequently, mostly out of sight of my beloved family so as not to cause worry or added stress. I would say that this is something for Moms, but I did at times find my husband suffering from the “there is something in my eye” syndrome. Certain music, the sight of the flag, the news, the feeling that things were going to change – that they would not be the same, was pervasive. I also remember feelings of uncertainty – is this really the right path? – which was so bogus because I knew it was! We were well prepared by some very amazing mentors so it was just fear of the unknown talking.

I would race ahead thinking of years to come – of happy things and scary things – and really had to reel my thoughts in as the Apostle Paul said, “take your thoughts captive.” That is something that I had to learn not only throughout our years at USNA but especially when our oldest deployed.

I remember feeling nervous, proud, happy, and sad all in one second, and I remember just watching my kid – just looking and observing every feature, every movement, every gesture – I guess I was afraid of letting go.  It is the path less traveled and it is a path that leads to great opportunity but also does not guarantee safety. So I lingered and observed trying to memorize everything.

My heart goes out to the Class of 2024 – it has been said ad nauseum, but yes, this I-Day is very different. My heart is with you – our 2020’s Commissioning was very different too.  2020 is a historic year in many respects that is for sure!

I remember arriving in Annapolis, setting about our list of things “to do”. I remember the feeling of letting go when it was time for our children to enter Alumni Hall – neither time was less easy. When they disappeared into Alumni I felt pressure on my chest and my heart was beating so fast I thought for sure I was having something medical.  I also felt the uncontrollable desire to cry… but I didn’t – I had promised myself that I would hold it together and I knew that God would not let me down. 

Once our now-Plebes marched into Bancroft at the end of the day and the doors slammed shut I felt relief – I could now let my emotions go.  I felt a great emptiness and made myself remember that we had more at home that needed our care and undivided attention. I felt that I was in essence grieving – grieving the separation, the end of childhood, and the beginning of something unique and new.

As hard as it was, I had to trust – trust that the system would work. My Dad had survived a far more brutal indoctrination decades ago. I had to trust in my Plebe – they are smart, strong, focused, and committed. We had to trust in the way we raised them, and we had to trust them as adults… yes, they are now adults, very capable and responsible adults.  I had also found a refuge in praying and had been doing so since before the application process began. I had been praying that God would throw open the doors if this was in His will and that He would slam the doors quickly shut – if not.  Well, He threw the doors open so most importantly, I had to trust God. 

The feelings eventually began to subside as we began to receive letters and find pictures online and I was able to see the occasional smile, the determined look. Yes, they were where they belonged. But I still had doubts and fears. So I also had to trust myself. My husband and I raised some pretty cool kids, just like you have. If I had persevered through that journey over the past 18 years, while teaching full time and at times holding three jobs and completing my degree; and having survived my husband’s absence for almost two years as he worked overseas, I could endure this and be strong. I realized that I AM strong!  I was now a warrior parent and my mantra became just that – My kids are strong. I need to be stronger. I CAN be stronger. I WILL be stronger – for them, for me, and for our family.

I know your heart, I have been there more than once. What I wish for you is that you Believe in yourself and know that if I made it, you will make it for sure!

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes: 

“You are Braver than you believe, 
Stronger than you seem, 
And smarter than you think”. 

You can read more about our family’s journey in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal. And I am just a message away.

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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