Three Weeks Down & Almost half-way!

Three weeks down and PPW is creeping closer! What to expect? Many Plebes will be acclimated by now, some may still be struggling, but do not be dismayed parents, the Academy has all eyes and ears out, and they are dutifully coming alongside everyone that may need extra encouragement.

As I discuss in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, it is difficult when we are so used to being involved in our kids’ lives to all of a sudden be in a black hole and know NOTHING about what is going on! It’s like going into “Mom / Dad withdrawal”. This is an important time for your Plebe’s formation, but also for us as military parents. It is a tough thing to let go, but try to look at the silver lining… you know exactly where your Plebe is when they wake up and when their head hits the pillow. You know they are not allowed to “skip class”, and that they are safe and well-looked after. You know they are not out drinking or worse… They are on their way to becoming leaders and Naval Officers.

There is a saying at the Naval Academy – the four years at USNA are divided into thirds – Plebe Summer is the first third, Plebe Year is the second third, and the remaining three years are the last third. Trust the system – they are fully committed to our sons’ and daughters’ success. And take heart – you will soon be reunited!

USNA Black Hole
We are in a Black Hole with little to no information and no communications…

Remember that the rollercoaster continues, and as you continue to receive letters you never know what kind of a day or week your Plebe has had. I discuss this in-depth in my book, and also in my post about The First Call. Also try to remember that “No News is Good News.” This is a motto I have clung to, along with Semper Gumby, and it has gotten me and many parents through deployments and other times of separation and uncertainty.

By now, many Plebes will have gotten “the point” of the whole induction exercise and what the end goal is for Plebe Summer, so you may find that your Plebe is finding the routine very tiresome. I remember when we had the second call with our Mid, he told us how he got what the Detailers were doing but found that the routine was getting “old and annoying.” He understood why things were the way they were, but was just ready for it to end. This is very normal – they get it and want to move on, but patience is the order of the day. Creating habits takes time, and repetition is key. What they are learning needs to become instinct.

Second set will begin with the “change of guard” at around 3-1/2 weeks or so. The new Detailers from the 2nd Set take over and all that is familiar, will no longer be… Different Detailers may be drastically different, different personalities, leadership styles and they often bring a different set of priorities. It is all a part of the training. It will be good practice for when the Brigade reforms, and for when current Plebes go out into the fleet.

For example, I remember seeing a friend of my then-Plebe in pictures and during PPW I asked her why she had not been allowed to wear hairpins or barrettes to help keep her hair away from her face. She mentioned that the first set of Detailers did not allow them to but the second set of Detailers encouraged it. Know that things will change slightly or maybe drastically, but things will change! This is a good lesson to learn: The only constant in the military is change…

Also, from Induction Day until Second Set (the last half of Plebe Summer), Plebes are being “deconstructed” or broken down, if you will. These high achievers who have always been concerned about “ME” and always being on top, should be learning about failure and learning the lessons it brings, and to put themselves last – their team first. No longer is it self, but it should now be OTHERS before self.

Assuming everything is moving forward and on schedule, we are approaching the half-way mark when 2nd Set Detailers take over and begin the arduous task of building the Plebes back up – the Navy way. Be encouraged: it is tough, but there is light at the end of the tunnel. If your Plebe and you have made it this far, you can hang on just a little longer…

Trust me, I know this is hard – the road that your sons and daughters have chosen is not the easy road. I have walked in your shoes as have many other parents before you. Right about now I still found myself spontaneously crying – anywhere! Actually, I still do. Just thinking about the journey with our former Mids, how far they have come, how much they have grown, and how much our role as parents has changed… will cause tears to flow.

I found that the hardest part as a parent is letting go of my precious children. Hopefully, you have learned that your Plebes are in good hands, and that it is OK to let go and allow them to grow into their journey, to be self sufficient, and independent. It is important to give them space, to allow them to grow on their own and to realize that they are now adults on their own path. That is not to say that they will not need us any more.

I discuss how our roles as parents change in A USNA Mom’s Journal, and why letting go is the best gift we can give our kids as parents. That is one thing the Academy does very well: they teach your Plebe that when they hit a road block, they WILL figure it out, they will work the problem and find a solution – with their team. It is all about teamwork now. So we parents must learn to LET GO…

That means staying away from the Yard for the remainder of Plebe Summer until PPW. That will mean sticking by the rules – for example, not meeting your Plebe after church services, or in the bathroom, or anywhere else. We may not realize it, but it does make things harder for our Plebes to acclimate and adjust to their new path.

We know that our kids are being stretched and are growing personally, physically, emotionally, and mentally to be men and women of duty, honor, and integrity. They are learning to live by the motto: Honor, Courage, Commitment. When you see them next, they will be grown men and women in their own right. They will be self-sufficient and responsible. We “N*ot College” parents can rest assured that our kids are where they are supposed to be.

We want what is best for our kiddos so as military parents, it is important to learn to step back and let them navigate this on their own. As parents, we need to be prepared and we need to realize we are not in their Chain of Command anymore. We are out of the loop, we have no one to call, it is now up to our Plebes to keep us informed and the faster that we accept that as parents, the easier it will be for us as parents and for our Plebes. I know these are hard words to read, but trust me – it is necessary and for the best. By the time I got to my third, I knew the drill.

Hang in there – We are living testimony that you will survive and you will be OK. Before you know it, you will be giving Plebe parents advice next year. Those of us who have gone before you have survived, as tough as it may be sometimes and so have our kids.

Remember my Plebe Summer ChallengeConnect Spiritually and Rise Early – Wake with your Plebe and pray for them, Connect Physically – get active, Connect with Others – find your Battle Buddies and meet fellow parents, Connect Creatively – focus on ways to use your intellectual energy, and Connect in Service – get busy helping others – and Be Strong! These strategies are helpful now, when the time comes for your Naval Officer to deploy, and beyond.

Some great podcast episodes to listen to are:
Finally! Advice for the Navy Dad Journey | Episode 21
Billy and the Plebes: What I Learned from I-Day and Plebe Summer – Part 1 | Episode 19
Billy and the Plebes: What I Learned from I-Day and Plebe Summer – Part 2 | Episode 20
Riding the Roller Coaster of Shifting Emotions & Relationships | Episode 10
What are Sponsors Anyway? | Episode 5
I-Day and Plebe Summer: Two Thirds of the USNA Journey | Episode 2
Not Your Usual Summer Camp | Episode 1

You can listen to more episodes here:

Feel free to reach out with questions. And as always, we are all here to help, support, encourage, give advice , listen and just cheer all of you on! Be strong and remember that you are not alone. We are here for you – you can do this! GO NAVY!!

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