PPW begins tomorrow!! You did it! Now that you are on your way to see your sons and daughters in their shining summer whites, you will be so proud!
I would suggest that you don’t over plan and that you follow your Plebe’s lead. Enjoy your time together, listen to the stories, allow them time to relax, unwind, rest, and basically, do whatever they would like. They have earned it, and the next few days are crucial to getting them re-energized for the Brigade Reform and the ACYear. Think about it – the next time they will be home for leave is Thanksgiving and unless you are traveling up to Annapolis to visit, this weekend is the last time you will be together until then.
Hopefully, your Plebe made their requests during the latest phone call. If they requested, you can bring their laptop or iPad so they can catch up with their emails, social media, and friends. If they requested their contact lenses you can bring those too. Our kids chose not to nap and just wanted to be with family. For my Oldest, the entire family came to PPW – grand parents, aunts, uncles, etc. I have to say it was a bit overwhelming and much to my dismay, I spent the entire weekend cooking, playing hostess, and washing dishes. I only got bits and pieces of conversations and missed most of the stories. When I asked my Plebe about the stories later that evening, he could not remember what he had said – I lost out! This experience definitely influenced our perspectives on Commissioning.
If you have family coming, rethink the hostess cooking thing lest you to miss out too. For our daughter, right off the bat she told us in no uncertain terms that she wanted no one else to come. Just the five of us and the puppies. That is what we did and although I love my family, it was so much better! At least for us…
My advice for this weekend is to try as much as possible to make it about your Plebe – they have been secluded from civilization, family, and everything that they have known. This is the first time they will be out and about with you after seven weeks Plebe Summer.
Something to note is that part of being in N*ot College are the military’s and the Academy’s rites of passage that earn privileges. Everything comes in due time and after a due process! For example, SEALs go through intense BUDS training for a reason and not everyone will make it. There is no way that anyone wears that Trident without having earned it. Plebe Summer is not even close to BUDS, but what is true is that Plebes will earn their privileges as they go through the rites of passage and they have to be patient… everything will come in time.
So as you prepare for PPW, I thought I would share some thoughts that may be helpful from our experiences. During PPW there may be the temptation to skirt the rules, but it is not an advisable option. They will find plenty of ways to do so, but this weekend is not the time. I know that Mids are notorious for placing their foot on the line, but crossing it is a whole other issue altogether.
It is helpful to know that Plebes are to be in their Summer Whites uniform at all times when out in public, and in their USNA issued PT gear in the hotel room or rental house when you visit during PPW and during Plebe year. As I mention in my book, A USNA Mom’s Journal, available exclusively at the Midstore, you could buy your own set of PT Gear at the Midstore and have it with you. I always returned our set to the suitcase (see my book for advice on travel) so I would not forget it for the next time – or you can ask them to give you a set to keep for them. But once they set foot outside the door into any public space, they must be in their uniform. The only time they can dress in civilian clothes as a Plebe is when they are home on leave (vacation).
During PPW, they will be on Town Liberty, which is when they are allowed to go into the town of Annapolis, Baltimore or DC, until a set time, usually 11:59p.m. that same day. As I mention in my book, I highly recommend that they return at least an hour early to avoid the traffic jam that is sure to occur as everyone rushes back to the Yard, especially if you are driving! I can’t tell you how many Plebes I have seen getting out of cars and running down King George Street at 11:45pm because Gate 1 is backed up with cars all the way to Rt 450. We would go to the Yard and walk around, talk, and hear more stories until it was time for our kids to go in. These are precious moments! During the AC Year, Liberty may occasionally include an overnight in town, where they will be able to stay with you for the evening, but not during PPW.
Another thing that we take for granted is driving. No, Plebes (and Youngsters for that matter) ARE NOT allowed to drive while in Annapolis or the vicinity. So just don’t do it! It is important that as parents we don’t help or encourage them to break the rule. When we help them to break the rules, we risk our sons and daughters getting in trouble, but more importantly, we place them in the awkward position of getting the Plebes in their entire squad and/or company in trouble too! This would be a great betrayal of trust. Also, it will probably be found out sooner or later any way – there are eyes everywhere! If they wore civvies, left the allowed area, etc. other Plebes will know. Your Plebe does may not want to be the one to get their squad or company in trouble. Remember what they have been learning over the past or so weeks, they either ALL rise together – or they ALL fall together within the bounds they are given by their Detailers.
The world is so small! You never know who you are going to run into or where, so it is best to play by the rules. This may be something small, but doing otherwise jeopardizes your Plebe’s development – what type of leaders will they be as a future Naval Officers? Here is an anecdote from Plebe year to illustrate…
My oldest asked for and received a chit (special permission) during the ACYear to visit our family during a long weekend. While walking around with a friend, he happened to run into, who else, but his Company Commander. As they locked eyes while crossing the street in opposite directions, my Plebe’s heart skipped a beat – he never thought he would run into any one in NY City… and this Firstie was just as surprised to see my son, but gave him a nod, a thumbs up, and said, “Good job for doing what you are supposed to!”, and kept walking… It was random, but if anything, it confirmed to my then-Plebe that it is necessary and so worth it to follow the rules because you just never know… I was also glad to know that he was doing the right thing when he had the opportunity not to… Help you Plebe to live out the core values of Honor, Courage, and Commitment. And trust me there were plenty of times when he tested the limits too and so will your Plebe, I am sure!
Another piece of advice, please be careful of what you share on social media after PPW. Your Plebe will be able to pour their heart out, vent, commiserate, laugh, tell funny stories and so much more. Not all is meant to be shared outside of your family. Some years ago after PPW, there were parents on Facebook that posted about something which they had learned about from their Plebe, who had trusted their parents to keep confidence. Unfortunately, they chose not to keep it confidential and posted details and stories on social media. The effect of this parents’ post was devastating to the ENTIRE BRIGADE! Shortened and in some cases loss of Liberty, additional and longer watches, earlier TAPS, and a myriad of other consequences affected all 4,400 Mids.
Also, please be aware that it could be considered a security risk to post any images of your Midshipman with their military ID (CAC) showing in the picture. To keep my former Mids-now-Officers safe, I use pixlr.com or my phone Edit function to remove names and IDs when I post any public photos. I cross out the name from the name tags (usually on PUBLIC posts)… You may not have to, but for me personally, it has been well worth the effort. Please remember that Facebook is public, even within private accounts and our closed parent groups. We all have to be discerning as to what we share!
To eat at King Hall or not to eat at King Hall? That is the question! I suggest you leave it up to your Plebe. I guarantee they will want out of the Yard ASAP! In any case, if still possible, your Plebe can request visitor tickets toward the end of Plebe year or Youngster year? Or better yet, wait for 2/C parents weekend when they will be begging you to join them and their best friends for lunch…
DEFINITELY visit their quarters, meet their Plebe Summer roommates, take pictures, but take your cue from them as to how much they want you to interact (or not) with Detailers, and if they are like my kids, it will be to not even look in the Detailers’ general direction! In any case, it is best not to say much, maybe a polite hello and keep going. You definitely do not want to engage a Detailer in a conversation about how appreciative you are that they have been working with your Boo Bear during Plebe Summer, etc. because you will be dooming your Plebe to either carry a bear for the rest of the year, or to be called Boo Bear by everyone for the next four years (and it has happened!).
Finally (phew!), you may notice as you get closer to the end of the day, that your happy Plebe becomes your quiet, or irritable, or argumentative, or on the other end of the spectrum, super talkative Plebe. Our kids became very quiet and introspective, almost sad and withdrawn. Just as with I-Day, as parents we can’t take it personally, it is the way they cope with – as my Oldest put it – putting their “Game Face” on. Although there were no tears from our then-Plebes, I purposefully held out crying until after we dropped them off so as not to make it harder for them. There may very well be tears, and that is OK but it is also good to reassure your Plebe that they have made it, just one more week to go, and life will get much better.
Although PPW is here, Plebe Summer will not be over until they meet the rest of the Upper Class in their company during HELL-O Night during Brigade reform. They will still have a week or so to go after PPW ends. In the meantime, your Plebe knows what the rules are – what they are allowed to do and what they are not allowed to do. Please do encourage them to make the right choice. Trust me – your Plebe does NOT want to be the one that costs his squad or company-mates privileges, especially if it involves something we did as parents. Plebe year will be over in the blink of an eye, and your Plebes will get to reap the benefits of their self-discipline, and will enjoy many privileges denied them as Plebes.
Try to be patient and encourage your Plebe to be patient too. This is not only a right of passage, but it is about learning to follow orders even when you don’t want to. It is about earning the respect and trust of their peers and their Detailers. As future Naval Officers, not following orders can have serious repercussions and could ultimately cost real men and women their lives… Just do the right thing!
I hope to see you around the Yard sometime and as always, just a message away and here to help! GO NAVY!!! BEAT ARMY!!