As Naval Academy parents, we can all empathize with Plebe parents as they go through the Plebe Summer crucible. We remember what it was like – the not knowing, the uncertainty, the separation, the difficulty of the initiation into life as a military parent. And it continues.
The rollercoaster ride that is USNA moves into Plebe year, with its doubts, tribulations, academic and time challenges, and so much more. Every time there is a visit, there is the “shut down” on the part of our Mids and the sadness that creeps in to our parent hearts when we have to separate yet again. As the year progresses, our heart eases and we begin to get used to certain aspects of life as an Academy parent. We rejoice at the visits home and our hearts break when things don’t go as expected.
Summer training bring much excitement and joy, and Youngster year arrives in the blink of an eye. We are now “experts” and know our way around the Yard, may feel comfortable enough to give advice to new parents, and have made friends and battle buddies that help keep us going when things get tough.
2/C year, we are in our groove – looking toward Commissioning. We have friends that understand our journey and have our backs. Our Mids are more comfortable in their journey as they glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel getting closer.
While our Mids and us as parents may have endured some difficult stretches, this is it! The 2 for 7 signing cements the commitment made on I-Day. Before we know it, Firstie year has arrived along with service assignments, capstones and that light at the end of tunnel is shining bright. There are still things that can go unexpectedly, but on Commissioning Day we know that we survived and now begin a new season of the journey. You can find out more with my posts and podcast episodes – “A Journey’s End: Finding New Purpose” and Parts 1 & 2 “How Time Flies with my good friend Julie Haller.
With three former Mids, I know this feeling of swelling pride and reemerging uncertainty only too well. Now, as my Officers are in their Naval career paths, the uncertainty deepens. Things still get derailed, like getting rolled into the next class of your training because of CoVid, or delays in the training pipeline, or the hardest, preparing for deployment.
We are staring down that lion again. Our second Mid is moving to their new duty station and is preparing to deploy. They visited for a few days to see us before the training begins for deployment, but also to drop off their beloved pets for us to keep and care for while they are gone. That was reality hitting my husband and I in the face… The cycle begins again: no communication, limited knowledge, uncertainty in a difficult and unpredictable world, and they, along with the rest of our service members, are the point of the spear that defends our nation. Our kids and our families make so many sacrifices that go unnoticed and unvoiced. And that is the nature of the beast.
Our job as parents is to strengthen our kids, let them know how proud we are of them, shore them up to succeed, let them know they can and will do this, and we hold back the tears as they walk down the driveway to their car to drive off yet again.
There was a point when I thought saying goodbye was getting easier – at least that is what I told myself. But in truth, no, it does not. Every time I say good bye to my kids it is a gut wrenching experience that leaves me breathless. I think it may get harder because we know what is at stake now more than ever. So, I choose to trust them, their training, their crew members, and my God. I am on my knees praying constantly.
Yesterday I watched my precious child drive away and I did want to cry, wail in fact. But I did not. I acknowledged my sadness, I called it out and named it, accepted it, let it stay for awhile, and then invited it to leave. Sadness is not welcome because I choose to affirm my children’s path and their desire to serve; because I will not sit at home wringing my hands but will get to work too (see my Plebe Summer Challenge – it is helpful for deployments too!); because I know they are the best they can be, and their fellow crew members – both Officers and enlisted, are too. And because I look forward to the reunion – not only of my husband and me with our beloved child, but of their beloved pets with our Officer as well.
My post and podcast with my mentor Elaine Brye, “Embrace the Suck and Other Words of Wisdom” is always a great listen and a huge help, as is “Surviving Deployments, Grunts, and Fleet Life” with my good friend Jess – a 16 year Marine spouse.
And I cling to my Battle Buddies, I pray, I wait to get word and for them to come home… again.
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