You will soon find that life at the Academy is Company Dependent – same overarching rules for all but each company has a different culture, way of doing things, and leadership style (just like ships in the Fleet), and at times the Companies apply these rules in slightly different ways. Keep this in mind throughout Plebe Summer and the AC Year (Academic Year).
Waldo hunting is at an all time high and finding those pictures is a soothing balm on our hearts. Letters are also trickling in. As you begin to read the letters from your Plebes there are times of celebration and at other times much consternation. Letters are a perfect example and definitely give us all a glimpse of what Plebes go through during Plebe Summer. Letters and phone calls show us that Plebe Summer is a roller coaster ride, an incessant tide with wave after wave of changing emotions, both for Plebes and for us as parents. In the end, we do survive and live to see another day, but it is hard!
Just as the letters are up and down, keep this in mind as you get closer to your first call. Please remember that the first call may be great, or not… and but PPW inches ever closer. It may be good to remind your Plebe of everything that they have overcome to be where they are right now, remind them of why they wanted to be at the Naval Academy, how strong they already are, and that they will get through it because they have done it before – maybe it was a big test, or a an athletic event, or an injury, or the lost friendship – they have made it through and they have what it takes.
Hang in there! You will make it too and your Navy family here to come alongside and support you. So about the call… If your call is a joyful one and things seem to be going well, that is wonderful and we all rejoice with you! But..please be cognizant that not everyone may have a wonderful call, so it is important to try to be sensitive to this when sharing.
If your call is not warm and fuzzy, try to keep in mind that this call is like a picture – a snapshot in time. Your Plebe may have had a bad day either the day of the call or the day before, etc. Maybe yesterday or today was THEIR day – I give the full account in my book, A USNA Mom;s Journal. Know that it will pass!
Also, and more importantly, my advice is to be ready to LISTEN – allow your Plebe to vent, especially if you do not have such a great call. Many Plebes are still homesick and adjusting; they may be thinking over their choice and the remaining five weeks. This call will be their only opportunity to get everything off their chest “safely” until the next call. They are counting on you because right now you are the only one they can trust to pour out their heart – and although painful for us, because their hurts are our hurts, their trust is rewarding for us as parents and it is important to respect that trust.
When they are done venting, try to be encouraging and remind your Plebe that two plus weeks are down! Encourage them to take it minute by minute, meal by meal, day by day. They need to set up small goals that they can conquer. Each day the sun will rise and the sun will set, and the Detailers have no say over that. Every day has an end as does Plebe Summer.
I guarantee to you that if they do vent, they will feel better afterward and when they are done (although you will be left with all of the angst and may not see the benefits), the next call will most likely be better. It is also important to not betray the confidence that has been placed in you by your Plebe: Please do not post the contents of your conversations publicly – feel free to message your Battle Buddy privately, but I recommend that you not share publicly.
Hold everything they tell you close to your heart. Even though Fb groups are “closed” we all know that anything we post is “public”, so hold their information close. This is critical in preparation for OPSEC. I have mentored several Moms over the years whose Plebes wanted to leave and throw in the towel during the first call. The parents asked him to wait until the next call. The second call was tough too. As usual, the Navy family came around the parents, seasoned parents encouraged and gave her advice. In the case of one particular Mom, I personally kept tabs on her and mentored her for a few weeks. I can tell you that on the last call, her son was happy and didn’t remember wanting to leave.
It is tough – for all of us, and sometimes, it just takes time. By the way, that Plebe that wanted to leave became an Officer in the Fleet and can’t see themselves anywhere else. And that is just one story. Another friend’s Mid wanted to leave. After asking them to wait, he did stay, found a club that he loved and that gave him the focus that he was looking for. He Commissioned and now flies jets.
Try to take things in stride, be mentally prepared for the call going EITHER way – brace yourself and be strong for both of you. “Hope for the best and prepare for the worst.” Things will work out and you will have many arms that will rejoice with you and that will also hold you up either way. After all, you are enduring Plebe Summer together with your fellow class parents and we are right there with you!
Plebes – and parents – you are learning to put Others before Self, and to Never Give up the Ship!, to serve with Honor, Courage, and Commitment. Hang in there and be ready to listen.
Those who have walked before you are always here to help and listen to you, so just reach out. Hang in there!
And if you have not had a chance to listen to my new podcast, Episodes 1 thru 3 are available here:
GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!!