When my two kids were Plebes the one thing they always lacked was time! The Detailers give them too much to do in too little time – on purpose… Although Plebes have their phones back, you may not be able to communicate as often as you would like.
Your Plebe’s company will decide when and if they can use their phone, and even if they can they will be so busy that they simply won’t have time! You may a get a cryptic text or maybe a short blunt reply. Try to keep in mind that they are trying to communicate while they rush. Please don’t take it personally. They will be burdened way beyond their capacity to meet their obligations – not enough hours in the day to accomplish everything they need to do. This is also by design, as they learn the art of time management, prioritizing, and sacrificing. They will not be able to finish everything and will have to choose what they will let go of and not get done…
They are being trained for the stressful situations they will encounter in the Fleet and potentially, during conflicts or war – high stress, lots of information, lots to decide and do, lots to remember, and not enough time – split second, life and death decisions. I am amazed how these dedicated young people handle it. Yes, they will fail, but it is important that they learn from their mistakes, dust themselves off and keep going.
Be patient! They will communicate when they can. I was very pleasantly surprised plenty of times with an impromptu text or call. It was very hard for us because we are very close to all of our kids… But this is when they learn to grow up, and as parents, we need to learn to do that too. It will all be so worth it in the end!
As far as the ACYear, some Plebes find it more stressful than Plebe Summer because they are now responsible for determining where they need to be, when, what to bring, etc. What do they prioritize and how? What is most important, what can they sacrifice? The only thing I can tell you is the Company, platoon, and squad come first. They will have to have their Company mates’ back… So instead of having a Detailer take you where they need to go, when to be there, and what they need to bring, now it will be up to them.
Something we need to keep in mind as parents as well, is that your Plebe will depend on their Company’s rules and culture. Every Company is different, so where you Plebe may be required to do something one way, their friend may not have the same requirement or may do things in a completely different way. They will depend on their Company, so your best source of information once the ACYear begins will be YOUR PLEBE. Don’t be afraid to ask, but also, you will need to learn to prioritize as well. Is it a question that can wait until the weekend or is it absolutely urgent? Remember that their time is very limited!
With Brigade Reform comes “HELL”-O night! The upperclassmen are jumping at the bit to meet their company Plebes, and they get creative thinking of things for Plebes to do to get their signature. My Mid had to sing, impersonate, recite and do a myriad of things to get his signatures, but for the most part, it was good-natured fun, although not always easy.
Another thing that Plebes will be responsible for are the Firstie Boards (bulletin boards). They will either be assigned a board to do or will be able to request a board (depends on Company). They will be given a deadline and they will have to complete the board according to a predetermined design (again, depends on Company). If the board is approved by the Firstie and Training staff they are good to go, but both of my Plebes have had to re-do their Boards for one reason or another, so don’t be surprised if that happens too.
With football season will also come bets – and great stories! A Plebe can’t refuse an upperclassman’s bet and the stakes are high. Our Plebe had a good year and won most of his bets. I remember one in particular with a LT in his Company. If the Upperclass won, my once-a-Plebe would have to ninja crawl through the decks all day anytime he was inside a building. Sounded daunting but interesting. If my Plebe won, he would get carry on for his fellow company Plebes for the week. High stakes indeed. Of course, we were oblivious to this and found out later – fortunately, he won – or rather the football team won! Did I forget to mention, Plebes always have to bet on Navy winning – at least that is tradition. I once gave a hug to a Plebe that had lost a bet. He had to stand on Stribling with a sign that said Free Hugs. No one was going near him – I think for fear of getting him into trouble, but the Mom in me kicked in, and I went over and chatted with him and gave him a hug for his Mom – and got my free hug! In my daughter’s company, a Plebe that lost a bet had to be the bathroom butler, in their Mess dress and towel over arm, offering paper towels, mints chocolates, etc.
In addition, your Plebes will be assigned a Youngster that will mentor them and be there to help. I chuckle thinking of how my one Mid referred to “his Plebe.” This mentoring is part of the mission of the Naval Academy, and for the Youngsters, it is the beginning of the next step – they have learned how to follow, and now they will begin learning how to lead. Your Plebes will be there soon enough!
Also, as the AcYear gets underway, my advice would be that if your Plebe is having difficulty with a class, they should get help early if needed. The Academy is unusual in that the students can ask for help and they will get it from their professor, from study and help groups, friends, roommates, and there is the Center for Academic Excellence http://www.usna.edu/AcCenter/ where they can get help and tutoring at no cost. It is better to get help early than to have to remediate or be on academic probation. All they need to do is ask…
The other thing I would like to mention is that you may eventually hear your Plebe say something like they feel they are not good enough anymore – everyone is better than me! You will have to help reassure them that they would not be at USNA if the Admissions Board would not have thought they were capable… Yes, the Academy is competitive, and yes, there will be those select few that are on “God’s List” 4.0 all the way, but you can remind your Plebe that pretty much EVERYONE at the Naval Academy is top 10-20% of their class.
If you really think about it, everyone will fall into rank around where they were in high school – at least initially. So if your Plebe was #5 in their class, chances are they will rank somewhere in the middle of the pack – in the 500’s or so, so on and so forth. My husband always explains it like this: It is like going from high school sports straight to the major league sports. It is not that you are not good, it is that everyone there is also good and the best at what they do. It is a difficult thing for high achieving kids to take when they are used to being at the top and all of a sudden they are “just” average. NOT! They are in the major leagues now!
Finally, some dates to keep in mind – Halloween brings a great concert worth attending at least once in during the four years, and in December the Glee Club has a wonderful performance of Handel’s Messiah – early Dec. If you have to choose, definitely plan on being there for the Herndon Climb in May. It is worth it!
If you have not yet joined the Naval Academy Club – the on-campus Officer’s Club, I suggest that you do if you are able to. Since it is on the Yard, you may be able to have dinner with your Plebe at the O-Club if you happen to be visiting on a Friday early evening – 7:45 is the latest reservation. They will have to get permission from their chain of command, but they can usually have dinner with you since it is on campus – or you can =bring them to-go. We always flew in on Thursday afternoon for Prime Rib night with our Mids, or Friday morning or afternoon and had dinner with our Mid, his roommates, and sometimes friends tag along. At times it is the friends that joined us and brought food back for our Mid because of ProKno quizzes he had Plebe year, or Glee Club practices Youngster Year. It will be nice for you to see them and their friends, and they will love the food and change of scenery.
It is a tough, long road ahead, and our job as parents is to keep encouraging and supporting our Mids. Check out your local parents’ club for parental support and information. You can also order a copy of my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, exclusively available at the Midstore – (410) 293-2392.
Feel free to reach out any time – I am always glad to help! GO NAVY!!