The Pandemic that Didn’t Steal Christmas

Some thoughts as Mids begin to travel home.

Time. It is precious. It is non-renewable. It is fleeting. It is a gift. If anything, this year has reminded me that time with family, whenever and how ever it comes, is a priority and a blessing. And I am so happy for all of our USNA families because Mids will slowly and surely travel home to be with family and celebrate the holidays soon!

A heartfelt congratulations to Mids and parents – you are halfway through this unusual and challenging ACYear. Before we all know it, Herndon (hopefully!) and Commissioning will be at our doorstep!

I have been reminiscing about of our experiences over the past seven years. As you get ready to enjoy your Mid for Christmas and the holidays during this unusual season, I thought I would get some advice and go right to the source, so I asked my former Mids what advice they would give to USNA parents as their Mids come home. They said the following:

a. Parents, remind your Mids to eat slowly and enjoy the home cooked meals – they are always wolfing down their food in 5 seconds flat!

b. Parents, try not to over schedule.. This year especially, family and friends will be eager to see your Mids, but allow them to set the pace whenever possible. Leave lots of free time to relax and time with friends – and family – too.

c. Know that your Mids will probably sleep a lot and not do much the first few days while they recover and decompress. They have been going full steam ahead without coming home – and for Plebes, since Plebe Summer!

d. Try to be understanding. They are used to a very structured day so if your Mid or Plebe asks for the next day’s schedule, at what time they have to be ready, and they are ready early, know that it will take a few days or more to relax.

That is all that our former Mids remember… their USNA memories have been apparently supplanted by Reef Points, Duty rosters, Navy Regs, or studying for Boards…

You may notice, at least in our case, our first Mid wanted to know what the plans were for the next day, at what time he should be ready and at what time we would leave – Parents should read: I am still on military/USNA time/schedule. Be ready when you tell me to be ready, and if you are on time you are already late…

I will never forget the first Christmas during Plebe year. Our Mid asked what the plans were for the next day and at what time he should be ready. We gave him our thoughts, and of course, the next day he was ready 15 minutes ahead of time and was ready to go. In the meantime, we were still running around in our PJs, getting breakfast ready, MidSibs were reading in their PJs too. Next question: At what time are we leaving? And Shouldn’t you be getting ready by now? We answered: Just chill honey, the time was just an approximation. We are not on a tight schedule! His reply: “Civilians!”, he exclaimed with a look of disdain… Then he turned around and walked away shaking his head. We looked at each other (chuckled as quietly as we could) and immediately went to get ready but were still about 30 minutes late… As time went on, he got more relaxed and was fine, but don’t be surprised if they are very punctual – at least initially.

The other thing we noticed, is that our usually fairly neat Mids, were not so fairly neat anymore – at least at home! I usually spend spent several days cleaning, organizing, weeding through so that everything was absolutely perfect for our Mids when they came home. Both Mid #1 and Mid #2 who are pretty organized and neat , did not make their bed once, and their rooms were not exactly something I enjoyed wandering into. In the end, I lived by Semper Gumby and I followed my mother-in-law’s advice – I just closed the door and everything was good!

Another thing we noticed, on a more serious note, especially for Mid #1, after he visited his high school friends who would talk about trips, parties, skipping class, weekends at home, etc., I noticed he would be really pensive and quiet. We finally inquired and our Mid mentioned that he really missed the freedom of doing what he wanted and being with friends. He felt he was missing out on college life. We asked him why he decided to go to the Academy when he had so many other great options. He said, “I know Mom, I chose to go to the Academy, to serve, and I want the opportunities that the Academy offers. But sometimes, it is just hard, especially when friends seem to be having fun and I am are not there to share the moments”.

Fortunately for our Mids, any pity party was short-lived but we still periodically reminded them that there is light at the end of the tunnel. As Plebes they just had to get to Spring Break, and it would be “downhill” from there… As Youngsters, they would have more freedom and possibly time without ProKnow quizzes and Plebe duties. There are aso other perks, which Coronavirus has single handedly eliminated this year, but nonetheless, I hope that as things go back to normal, they will be able to enjoy automatic overnight weekends, no more, no mandatory PT, etc. As a 2/C they should be able to leave campus on Friday night for the entire weekend after their duties are done. And finally, as a Firstie, they could leave right after school ends on Friday unless they have watch… It does and will get better and please do encourage them! Hopefully next year things will return to greater normalcy, but things do improve.

As far as the rest of the ACYear, Sea Trials are normally a couple of weeks before Herndon, and normally, they are are not open to the public or to parents. As with everything 2020, this year we saw a virtual version of Sea Trials. I was sad for those of us from the Class of 2020 who missed having an in-person commissioning – but things did work out! The Class of 2022 who missed 2/C Parents Weekend, the Calss of 2021 that missed Ring Dance, and the Class of 2023 who missed their Herndon Climb – the pinnacle of Plebe year. If things don’t go as planned this coming spring, I would not be surprised to see our very creative Brigade come up with some virtual of alternatives – like a 3D virtual for Herndon – Minecraft style?? Or a virtual Ring Dance or alternate ring blessing opportunity.

There is nothing like hearing the collective “I Do” reverberate throughout the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial stadium as a perfect bookend to a Midshipman’s years at USNA; or seeing Mids all dressed up for Ring Dance and the excitement of the moment when they get to wear their rings officially; or seeing fellow parents and attending classes with your mid; or gathering together for Youngster Mom’s Weekend (thanks Class of 2022 Moms!); or hearing the entire class chant “PLEBE NO MORE!” after they have worked together to climb the monument and replaced the Dixie Cup with the Mid cover. Herndon is usually the moment when the Plebes bond as a class, although this year, the circumstances and the need to overcome obstacles have forged bonds that will be as unbreakable and will make for lifetime friendships through the classes and the years. The struggles and difficulties that Midshipmen have had to overcome by working together and helping each other have united the Brigade in a “pandemic Herndon” of sorts. I truly believe that these four classes will be tougher, stronger, more resilient, and more adaptable, which will serve them well in the Fleet’s operating environment.

Finally, as your sons and daughters arrive home, just enjoy your time as a family again. Allow time for your Plebe or your Mid to do what they would like to do, listen to all of their stories, and cook their favorite food. Time really does fly – you will hear that time and time again.

Before you know it, your Mid’s Commissioning will be around the corner so try to make lots of memories! We love cooking and baking as a family. We are planning on taking some virtual cooking classes from around the world while our former Mids visit on leave. If anything, the pandemic has brought the world to our doorsteps – or our devices in any case! You will cherish and savor those moments long after your Mid has been Commissioned, left USNA, and is in the Fleet or Marine Corps. Trust me!

As always, it may also help to set expectations with family – let them know that they may not see as much of your Mid or your Plebe as they would like – or this year they may get to see them quite a bit! I hope that they have the opportunity to catch up with friends, watching the latest movie or Netflix series together with you, or just relax. Enjoy your time together as it comes! And if things don’t go as planned, remember: Semper Gumby. Reach out to your Battle Buddy and know that everything will work out.

Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and joyous holiday season. Enjoy your time together! GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!!