The Dark Ages… what are they exactly? Yes, it is an actual historical period after the fall of the Roman Empire, but closer to home at the Naval Academy, the Dark Ages are the dark, overcast, cold, and dreary days of winter after Christmas and before spring. The sun hides for days, maybe weeks at a time, tans fade, snow, ice, and rain abound, and it is just plain dark, cold, gloomy, and dreary on the Yard.
Extra special care packages with favorite snacks, encouraging cards, pick me ups like a gift card to Starbucks or Bean Rush can brighten up your Mid’s day. Plan a visit if the Yard is open – you will find no crowds, but bring a warm coat! Planning an out-of-the-ordinary activity (when possible) during the visit (gong for tea at Reynold’s Tavern, ceramics, a candle making at Candles Off Main, a play or concert (when possible), going for a peaceful stroll or to a nearby park for a change of scenery, or any other favorite activity can brighten your Mid’s day. Our parents club sends Dark Ages care packages and gift cards. You can also send your Mids Amazon packages with favorite snacks (remember that storage is VERY limited, so the key is small) and other goodies. It is also good to keep in mind that the USNA Post Office is small and is manned by two persons, that tackle thousands of parcel that arrive each day. So… be patient!
If you have a Plebe, this is a tough time mentally. Your Plebe recently returned from break with family and friends, and now they are back to the structure and rigidness that can be the Academy, but this time will soon pass. The are are also considering their major selection which can be stressful if they are not sure what to pursue.
Plebes will have to choose their majors before spring break and different academic departments will have informational sessions and will begin to recruit students. Most colleges don’t require their students to choose a major until their second year, but not at N*avy! Do encourage your Plebe to choose a major they are passionate about. Major has nothing to do with Service Assignment in the Big Navy. The course of study at the Academy is so rigorous that they may as well enjoy what they are studying. Plebes should also turn in their summer training preferences.
Youngsters are looking to Second Class Year and 2/C’s are looking at Firstie year and running the show. That is Life at Navy.
Youngsters and 2/CS will have been applying for whatever summer trainings and internships, special study programs, and a myriad of other opportunities that may be available at this time. Last year so much training was cancelled with CoVid, but with the vaccine on the horizon, hopefully, their summer will be more “as usual”. They will also be looking at summer and next year’s leadership billets.
For Firsties, now is crunch time. Some Firsties may soon be presenting their thesis if they chose to write one or they will be in the midst of their Capstone project. Firsties will be juggling service assignment, academic, military, and leadership duties, as well as Commissioning requirements. They will have service assignment related medical and other exams to complete. They are also “running the show” and are in charge of Brigade and Company leadership, mentoring 2/Cs who will be in charge next year, Youngsters who will be moving into larger leadership roles next year, and the Plebes in their companies. Needless to say, they have a full plate! This is all great training for life after the Academy, but can be exhausting and stressful.
Fear not however, because the semester’s end will be here before you know it, and the path heads down hill from there. Here is a peek at the spring calendar.
Encourage your Mid and remind them that there is light at the end of the tunnel and try to find your own way to brighten up the Dark Ages for your Midshipman. Special and fun care packages to share, visits when possible, and reaching out with an encouraging word or a funny joke or story can all help. Special deliveries are a favorite – as permitted – or some home baked goods, if allowed, are great too.
For parents, Plebes, and Midshipmen alike, the past two years has been extra tough. Facing and overcoming adversity is part of who our kids are and who we are as their parents too. Prayer is always helpful for me and for my kids – it is our anchor. Having an anchor, however you find it, is important especially when wave after never ending wave after wave threatening to overwhelm us with each storm.
Be well grounded so that you can surf the wave instead of letting it over take you; “embrace the suck” as one of my biggest mentors says; and stay “Semper Gumby”. As I mention in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, remember that nothing that is worthwhile is easy. This year, if anything, has made us all stronger and more resilient for the journey ahead.
Know that I am praying for all of you and as always, just a message away!