The Plebe Summer Challenge

As I have mentioned before and talk about in my book, A USNA MOM’S JOURNAL, when our USNA journey began I was feeling sad, empty, and felt like crying for no reason. In a way, as parents, we are grieving the sudden separation…. We have given our most treasured possession to USNA. There are so many unknowns to us and the whole experience can be scary. We can’t see them, hear their voice, know how they are feeling at the moment, text, call, or communicate on a regular basis. Yet I was also excited for my children’s new beginning and future. I knew that things would never be the same, and I think in addition to the separation, that is what made me feel such a great sense of loss.

Our children are beginning a new life, and although we will hear the stories, we will not hear all of them; we will hear about their day but will not be a part of their daily routine or their daily life. That is a part of growing up strong men and women of character that are productive citizens, and that is especially what the military is all about…

I still fell this way every time there is separation – after a visit, holiday or other time together – and you may also be feeling that there is a big hole in your heart that nothing can fill. I remember vividly having to pack my son’s and daughter’s things after I-Day to return home. Packing my daughter’s things was particularly difficult for me. She had left everything kind of everywhere – unusual for her at the time, but not any more (tell you about it in my book!). I carefully packed everything into her bag and when we arrived at home her suitcase remained packed in her room. I could not bring myself to unpack it and I think it is because if I did, it would be admitting that she wasn’t home… I would try to at different times but could not bring myself to do it. Weeks went by in this silly game. I told her about it when I finally saw her and she laughed and gave me a hug. In the end, I finally put everything away right before she arrived home for Thanksgiving break.

You may also find that the house seems much quieter. I also remember the first time we went out to dinner post I-Day, just the four of us, and making dinner reservations for five and having to correct myself and subtract one… Or going into their room expecting to see them and they are not there. Or you remember something you have to tell them and you call their name they don’t answer or you think of texting and suddenly you remember that they are at not at home but where they are supposed to be. I can’t say it will pass but it does get better as time goes on, There is a void because things have changed and will be different from now on. And that is OK, it’s just hard.

Just as our Plebes are being trained and growing stronger, we are in training too. It is a double learning curve – theirs and ours. As hard as it is, we are in the training ground for what is to come. Our children, and therefore we, are walking the road less traveled… Less than one per cent of the population serve in the military and it is hard for civilians and others to relate to how we feel and what we are going through. Every small separation, every time there is a period of no communication like Plebe Summer or some of their future trips and trainings, these are all a preparation for when they join the fleet, and ultimately, for when they deploy. And remember OPSEC!

I remember preparing for our oldest to deploy. It was nerve wracking! My family and I are now preparing for our second one to begin their duties in the Fleet and for the day when they will deploy. Looking back, I am thankful for the training that we as parents have undergone during the last seven years as a part of the USNA family. Our children are being prepared, but we are being prepared too. If we trust the system, follow the same rules and protocols that they need to follow, we will be better prepared and equipped for when the “real” day comes.

I am with all of you in heart and spirit and can tell you that this shall pass – maybe very slowly right now, but looking back it will have flown… With that in mind, here is my PLEBE SUMMER CHALLENGE TO YOU:

  1. Rise Early and Develop Spiritually – One of the things I committed to was getting up at the same time as my Plebes and praying for them during their PT time. So every day at 5:15 I was awake – without an alarm clock(!) – and prayed and meditated for them during the PT hour. I read books and verses that helped me to think and learn about me in the midst of the current situation where I found myself.
  2. Get Physical – The other thing I did, is work out. I thought that if they can do it, I better be able to do it! I am now a warrior Mom, and I need to be strong, not only emotionally, but physically, and mentally too. We are the only ones that can be there for them unconditionally. During Plebe Summer, we will be the ones that receive the brunt of their bad moments – they can only vent safely with us, whether in a letter or a phone call, and then they are all better, but we are a mess – until the next letter or phone call. So we need to be strong physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and take things with a grain of salt.
  3. Develop a Hobby or Interest – I chose to do things that would allow me to have a “single focus” – just think about one thing. So I returned to previous interest of mine such as crafts, sewing, writing – and of course, Waldo Hunting! Find something that you are passionate about and dive in head first.
  4. CONNECT – I connected with fellow Navy and Plebe Moms. Whether it was online or in person with local Moms, we met for coffee, dinner, and just kept in touch. Although this is a challenge at this time, do try to connect within social distancing guidelines. It is important to do so, and to hopefully find your Battle Buddy or Buddies!
  5. Make a Difference – We also became very involved in our local parents club and other organizations that support our military like the Travis Manion Foundation. The Navy League is another great organization that we have been affiliated with and offers seasoned Navy parents to connect with. Honestly, being involved helped to give me the focus and the sanity I needed at the time. I probably took on more that I needed to but designing the website, setting up the online store, and other projects for our local USNA Parents Club kept me busy and learning. If you have a local parents club or Navy League chapter, look them up and dive in!

And in honor of your awesome Plebes and of the awesome parents of the Class fo 2024, I am committing to working out each morning with you – let’s do this together… every day a little bit for the next four weeks! What are you going to do for the next five weeks to be a better, more focused, and stronger MidParent? Do it for your Plebes who will begin to endure Plebe Summer later this week. We are only a message away! GO NAVY!