Last year, when my son was a Plebe, so many people would tell me how different things would be after Plebe Year finally ended. First of all, I had a hard time believing that Plebe Year would ever end. Second, I had no concept of what “different” would be like in terms of being an Academy parent. But finally, I have learned that they were, indeed, correct … 100%, undeniably correct.
The upcoming Spring Break is a clear reminder of the differences. Last year, we spent the Dark Ages just hoping he would get through them and make it to Spring Break, notching another benchmark in the seemingly endless slog toward the Herndon Climb (here’s my previous post about Herndon). We simply wanted him to get home and made no real plans. He ended up making some plans to go camping that went sideways because of a big storm, but that’s another story.
If you’re a Plebe parent, my advice would be simple – let your Plebe take the lead. Offer up suggestions on things you could do, but ultimately leave the decisions up to them. Ours spent a lot of Spring Break sleeping in, hosting a bonfire and, in general, just relaxing.
This year, the lead up to Spring Break has been much, much different. We’ve made some small plans – a day trip, breakfast out with family friends, stuff like that – and he’s been looking at a couple of small outings. We’re looking forward to him coming home, of course, but we’re not wringing our hands like last year.
Having a more relaxed approach, I’ve read through some of the USNA parent Facebook pages and become focused on three approaches to Spring Break.
The first is for the Plebes. We’ve lived through it and, as I said, in our case, it was a chance to mark another milestone toward the end of Plebe Year.
The second is for folks whose Mids aren’t coming home for Spring Break. Whether it’s to take a college-like Spring Break trip or to do some sort of internship or training, a lot of Mids just don’t come home for Spring Break. We haven’t had that yet – though I certainly talked to my Mid about the option to let him know we’d support it – but I can imagine some disappointment there.
The last one is for the Firsties. This is the last Spring Break for them and their families. That thought has really given me pause this year (since I’m not obsessed with getting to the end of Plebe Year) and even though were two years away from it, I can see I’m going to struggle with that one. For Plebes, Spring Break is a last pause before the final run-up to Herndon. But to the Firsties, it is a last break before a much bigger run-up … graduation, commissioning and life after N*ot College. That’s heavy stuff.
I always try to keep my approach to these things simple – enjoy every moment (even if it’s stopping at the wholesale club for supplies on the return trip) and believe that our experience is the right experience. The latter one can be tough. Some folks will have amazing Spring Break stories – they went on an amazing cruise, their Mid went skiing and the powder was perfect, someone else traveled to some cool location for a professional experience. Meanwhile, our highlight may well be another game in our Madden franchise and recording some stuff for an upcoming podcast. But you know what? That’s OK. I hope others can adopt that philosophy and not get FOMO or whatever.
It’s Spring Break – if your Mid is home, enjoy the time together. If they’re not, enjoy that they are having an adventure. Then again, aren’t we all?