When Things Don’t Go as Expected
I would like to encourage those families and parents who may be concerned and who perhaps have not received the best of letters or perhaps had a tough phone call. In my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, I discuss the ups and downs of Plebe Summer and the N*ot College journey. Please know that the “downs” are very normal.
Plebe summer is a roller coaster ride for the Plebe and for the family too. When the first few letters were written by your Plebes, it was during the hardest period of adjustment for them. They have just left the world they know, their family and friends, they don’t know what is going on outside their Plebe Summer world, and are probably in technology withdrawal – their thumbs are probably texting in their sleep!
If you think about it, the Plebe class, is a collection of high achieving students, most likely top 10 in their graduating class; used to having all of the answers, doing everything right, and always being at the top. One of my favorite movie lines from “The Incredibles” is when Syndrome, the archenemy, says, “When everyone is a Super(hero), no one will be”, sums it all up. That is exactly the case during Plebe Summer and during the journey trough the Academy.
Plebe Summer is tough, as it should be. The Detailers are helping to mold and form future Naval leaders who will have the lives of our enlisted men and women who are also moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and friends, in their hands. Plebes are broken down, humbled, taught follow orders, and to work as a team. Individuality falls away and team work and concern for “others before self” will take over.
Remember that Detailers are not your Plebe’s enemy, but they are the vehicle by which your sons and daughters will be transformed and shaped as leaders. However, in order to lead, you have to be able to follow. I reminded one of our Mids at a point in their journey, that a famous businessman once said that you can’t tell the janitor how to push a broom unless you have done it yourself. Plebe summer teaches your Plebe how to be a leader by learning how to follow. It is a difficult process for these young Plebes to get adjusted to – especially when they have been used to being the leader – the team captain, the student council president, etc.
Use your letters and your next phone call to let your Plebe vent. Be encouraging, LISTEN, remind them they have already made it through 17 days, that’s about 2-1/2 weeks – Almost half way through!! Try to be positive and don’t focus on the negative! It may be hard, but it will be worth it in the end.
I know that I mentioned this previously but would like to reiterate the story of one of my parent mentors that helped us prepare for our Plebe Summer. Their Plebe went into Plebe Summer excited, but when the letters started arriving, the parents were at a loss. Their Plebe begged their parents to come and get them and bring them home. Our friends knew that quitting so early on would lead to regret later; that to quit without letting the process play out and work would be a mistake for their Plebe, so they wisely encouraged their Plebe to stay one more day, one more week… until the next phone call. They refused to jump on the negative bandwagon as hard as it was; they could see beyond the unpleasantness to the end result. There were many tears shed and this Plebe hated every day of Plebe Summer and even Plebe year but in the end they finished what they started. This former Plebe eventually LOVED being at the Naval Academy and could not see themselves anywhere else. They were the Training Sergeant Youngster year, on the Honor Board 2/C year, and was an officer in their company 1/C year.
This Plebe had tremendous insight, knowledge, and compassion that they were able to pass on to their fellow Midshipmen and Plebes under their care and has told me many times that the struggle made them stronger and a better leader. This former Plebe Commissioned and is now a SWO, Another Mom I counseled had a Plebe that had a very difficult time and wanted to leave. I took her under my wing along with other parents and her former Plebe commissioned in 2017 and is an officer.
Yes it is tough, yes it is hard for us parents to stand by, but I would encourage you to trust the system. The Academy WANTS your Plebe to succeed, and they will, but they need your support and wise guidance. Try not to get caught up in the emotion of the moment. You may get a disappointing letter and the next one may be great. If you had a rough phone call the next one may be better, or not. It IS a roller coaster ride but in the Navy family we “Don’t Give up the Ship”!
If you have not read my blog post ” Letters and Calls: A Snapshot in Time“, it may be helpful. Also, my podcast episodes are also worth a listen and may give you further insight. You can listen below:
And PLEASE remember that you are NOT alone – my mission is to pay it forward and am here to help! If you have questions, need advice or ideas, all of us that have walked before are a click away….
GO NAVY! BEAT ARMY!!