How my intense two weeks reminded me of our Plebes and Mids
Yes, I guess I always have to stay busy. Sometimes too busy, but I want to stay focused on things other than where my kids are or what they are doing at this moment. I pour myself into my teaching, making handcrafted jewelry and hand-painted items, writing my blog, planning another book (children’s this time!), and recording podcasts – who needs more, right?
Well, apparently “I” do. After my experience at Notre Dame, and since I am too old to apply to N*avy (insert smiley emoji here), I decided to pursue another Master’s degree – this time at Notre Dame. It is a hybrid program where you take classes in person during the summer and attend classes virtually during the fall and spring. I was accepted and flew to South Bend to begin my journey as a student once again.
Our Youngest was on TAD at his NROTC unit, so I stayed with him. I went book shopping, and supply shopping and generally felt ready to take on the challenge. I was giddy about the first day of class and when it arrived I was bright eyed, smiling and ready to go. My son dragged himself out of bed to drive me to class at 6:45 a.m. (Sound familiar?) I descended on campus full of energy, ready to learn, having completed all of my pre-reading assignments and home work. I was good!
Our schedule: Classes Monday through Saturday. My cohort and I were scheduled to take two in two very intense weeks – the first class was from 8:00 – noon and the second from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. every day. A whole semester rolled into two weeks! What could possibly go wrong?
Classes began, and soon the excitement began to give way to exhaustion, both mental and physical. There was no time for anything else but classes, reading, studying, writing papers, homework, and test-taking. I had my phone, but I didn’t use it – not because I didn’t want to but because I literally didn’t have time, not even to reply to texts most days. Wait… this felt and sounded familiar… where had I heard that before?
When I got home, I hit the books immediately and after 4 or so hours of sleep, it would all begin the next day all over again. I began to lose track of time and did not even know what day it was. The amount of work was colossal and I was buried under it all. I was beginning to get stressed and immediately thought of my Oldest who would get maybe three hours of sleep per night as a Cyber major at USNA.
My youngest offered to make me coffee or tea and cooked for me every night. He did my laundry and took care of me all the way around. I was so thankful! We both talked about it at one point, and it felt strange. I felt like I should be the one cooking and making coffee or doing laundry. But he said he was glad that he could take care of me. He was my sponsor parent this time around!
Over the span of two weeks, I barely spoke to my hubby and am so thankful for his support. Just when I thought I was caught up with work, I was behind again. It was exhausting and I honestly wondered if I had made a mistake taking this on. I remember having that conversation with my Oldest and Youngest. All of this was way too familiar – just form the opposite perspective. Exams and presentations came and went, and it was finally the last two days of class. I became a fixture in the study rooms at Mendoza and even had my favorite that I would get most of the time. The endless supply of coffee in the student lounge kept me going and my fellow classmates and I supported each other and helped one another as much as possible. We had study groups and would get together at the library or one of the study lounges. We were leaving no one behind!
At last, the two exam days arrived, and after the first exam, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. When I walked out of my last exam, I was exhausted but so relieved! The only thing that I could think of was this small glimpse of what my kiddos went through and may have felt like at USNA. Plebe Summer, Plebe year, and throughout their journey, they survived the constant pressure cooker, constant stress that never lets up, the insane amount of work that never ends, with no time for anything. Many times, prioritizing meant sacrificing the things that I wanted and needed to do. But I also have made friendships forged in fire that will last a life time. We will always be there for each other – through thick and thin as we move through the program together.
I had not fully realized until that moment, how blessed I am, and how blessed we are as N*avy parents to have children that are so driven, dedicated, courageous, humble, and smart. Truly on a personal level, Don’t Give Up The Ship, took on a whole different meaning. I felt honored and privileged to have walked in a few steps in like circumstances to our Mids’ journey. I could not even imagine what the whole journey was like and I didn’t even have mandatory PEP or sports period, physics or chemistry (although accounting was interesting!), chow calls or Firstie Boards, ProKno quizzes or six and twelve weeks. And I did not get any care packages or letters… Oh well!
My two weeks of “Plebe Summer” were such an eye-opener and made me even more grateful for my kids’ spirit of service, resilience, and grit. I just want to thank them for sticking it out for four years to now and want to thank them for the few texts and calls that they chose and managed to send, even though they did not have time. I now know what it is like…
What a N*avy journey it is, and it is even more wondrous when you have the chance to almost walk in their shoes, if only for a moment.