Reflections on Easter and “your experience is the right experience”

Being a Naval Academy parent has led me to connect pretty much everything back to life on The Yard and Easter is no different.

My complicated relationship with Easter began more than 40 years ago, sitting on the couch in the family room on a cool overcast morning. I was staring at a chocolate bunny on the mantle thinking about what, I cannot remember, when I heard my father stumble down the steps. He grabbed the phone, dialed it, and blurted out, “send an ambulance, I think my wife is dead.”

My mom loved that hutch, one of the first pieces of new furniture she and my father bought together. It now stands in our dining room.

My mother’s three-year journey with cancer had ended.

Easter is the most important day on the Christian calendar. It’s a beacon of hope and joy. I get it. But that experience forever changed that holiday.

When people talk about the most important moments in their lives, the ones that changed or set their course forward, I think of that moment, sitting on the couch. It forever changed the course of my life and, in many ways, not for the better.

How does all this relate to USNA? Simple, really, it reinforces the mantra, “your experience is the right experience.”

I don’t begrudge people who embrace all the joy of Easter. There’s no reason they shouldn’t. They haven’t had the same experience. Likewise, every parent, every Mid Sib, every Mid has their own experience with the Academy and sometimes those differences can be stark.

During the endless COVID-19 era, I’ve read a torrent of Facebook posts all across the spectrum. The interminable restrictions are crushing the morale of some Mids, leading some to decide this isn’t the life for them. Likewise, many parents are either empathizing with their Mids, helpless to provide any real comfort, or angry at Academy leadership for everything from ROM to shoddy meals to disappointing summer training to uneven communication.

On the other hand, some parents relate that their Mid is rolling with the punches and share details of happy phone calls and birthday greetings.

In both cases, some parents empathize while others, well, not so much. I’ve seen more than one gloomy parent all but chastised with comments that amount to, “the Academy is training warriors. This is preparing them for life as a Naval officer.” While this may be true, it does not invalidate the parent’s feelings or experience.

Everyone processes things differently. That’s why we have a broad range of introverts and extroverts, people who take a long time to process and others that shoot from the hip, huggers and those who offer a firm handshake. That’s why Baskin Robbins offers 31 flavors, right?

At the end of the day, the experience of us parents has little consequence in the long run. This is the Mids’ journey and we are just along for the right, spectators with an invested interest. So whatever your experience is – or was or will be – rest assured, it’s the right one, especially in the COVID-19 era. And also know that there is someone out there that feels almost exactly the same way you feel. The same goes for your Mid.

The path of a military academy parent can sometimes be a lonely one, but we are never alone. As Lily Tomlin quipped, “We are all in this together. By ourselves.”

The next time you see someone reacting in a way you wouldn’t, I encourage you to encourage them, even if what they express doesn’t entirely make sense. We are, in fact, all in this together.

Happy Easter.

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