Plebe Summer is the Naval Academy equivalent of Boot Camp, basic training or whatever name you want to call it based on whatever service your child signed you both up for. I say signed you up for because wherever they go your heart goes too. It’s that six to twelve weeks to infinity long transformation from civilian to a military service member. More importantly it signifies a rite of passage when your apron strings are cut with a machete and you learn to let go in an instant. No longer are they yours-they belong to their country. It is a sobering , terrifying , and a pride filled moment that is burned in your memory much like the day they were born What do you do when you say goodbye knowing from this moment your life as a mother will be changed forever? Looking back I can see that it was the basis for some lessons that I have drawn on every day going forward no matter on what continent my children pitched their tents.
Lesson # 1 I can survive not hearing from them.
Those first few weeks are endless. I wondered if they were homesick, lonely, if they could hack it. I was homesick for them, missing them with an intensity that was almost scary. Stray socks that used to make me mad now made me cry. Were they being yelled at? Were they injured? And then each day I realized the sun came up and I could keep going and I could find something to keep busy-I began to find things to do in their honor-silly things like planting flowers and knitting baby blankets and walking when they were running. And then I got a phone call and they were ok and I was that much stronger. Later on I would survive weeks and weeks without hearing from them with oceans between us-but those early days of practice helped to hold me together for the days when it was real distance.
Lesson #2 No news is good news
My husband always tells me 90% of what I worry about won’t happen and I cannot do anything about the 10% that does. Those sleepless nights of worries that did not materialize only reinforced that he was right. I learned to dump those thoughts quickly and only focus on what I knew to be true. And even those usually were temporary complaints that disappeared by the time the next letter arrived. Focus on the positive and expect good. That got me through three Plebe summers and several very difficult deployments. Sometimes I have to say it OUT LOUD-NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS.
Lesson # 3 I need my Battle Buddies
I need to surround myself with people who get it. Well meaning friends who told me that sending child to college is really tough just undermined the depth of sacrifice this entailed. My child could be sent to war someday. This was not a trip to State U. While I did not need to do that right away it was a possibility that I needed to be ready for and I needed people who understood. I also need to remove toxic influences in any form. It takes a lot of energy to keep the home fires burning. Being Brave takes practice. I was lucky-I had four years to get ready unlike so many of my Military Mom Sisters who had much less time to get ready.
Lesson # 4 We moms have been stepping up for a long time
Since the Revolutionary War moms have been saying goodbye and supporting their sons and daughters from front porches all over America. We cry and worry but we stand strong behind them because it’s what we do. We are American moms. We can do it.