1. easter2

    easter2 Member

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    My son is currently on the Ratline....he is having a difficult time with it...does not seem to be the academics or the physical aspect but appears to me to be the 'mental' challenge. We are almost on the other side of the country so homesickness too plays a part.
    I have not, and would not, be a Helicopter Parent (neither would the hubby) and so far have listened, asked questions both to take his mind off and to make him think hard, provided support...it is difficult however I am on the other side of the fence, instead of trying to 'rescue' him-- if he were here, I would smack him upside the head. I understand that there are folks not cut out for this type of thing and I accept that, I do think in his case if he can tough it out he will do just fine--right now just tunnel vision.
    Any advice from anyone that has been there and done that?
     
  2. SCcandidate2015

    SCcandidate2015 Member

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    Send him mail. Lots of mail, like 4-5 pieces a week. Send something nice like a 9x9 brownie wrapped in plastic wrap and put in a box (there is one kind that will fit this perfectly) once or twice a month or so; this will fit right in to his mailbox, and its a very discreet size.

    Ask him if he needs anything supply-wise. Then ask him again a bit later. There's always something that can make a cadet's life easier, something to help out with uniforms, work, etc.
     
  3. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Easter2: virtually everyone has been there at some point- as an Alum and a parent I can tell you I've been there from both perspectives. Right about now comes the "What the hell am I doing series of self questions. My GirlFriend/Boy Friend is off partying at UMass and I'm getting ready for a sweat party". It's the norm.

    I think that the best thing you can do is encourage him to hang in there- Parents weekend is less than a month away and that is usually a big pick me up for most Rats. Your kids want nothing to do with you at home- but when you go down to see them for Parents Weekend- they will strut for you (and talk amongst themselves in your earshot in the restaurant about the "suck factor" as I call it and how their company is the worst/ hardest etc...) and much of that will be for your benefit because they are happy to see you and want you to know that they are doing something hard. After that, Thanksgiving and then Christmas all provide useful yardsticks for him (It's just 4 weeks till xxx kind of an approach).

    Does he have a decent relationship with his Dyke? If so- you might consider contacting him via text or email (not thru your son) and just letting him know that your son is experiencing the doldrums right now and asking him to chat a little with him to buck him up. Not every dyke is a sympathetic one or even a good one though, so if you haven't heard positive things about his dyke relationship- don't go there. Alternatively, Chaplain Park would be someone you can contact. Again- not as a helicopter mom with a litany of complaints, but just to have someone outside the routine of the Ratline go into barracks say hi and chat- and as a Chaplain, a USMA grad and a Masterblaster Ranger he understands a Cadets perspective too. An awful lot of the stress most Rats feel right now can be talked out, but amongst themselves sometimes they reinforce the stress instead of reassure each other.
    Good luck- hang tough and make sure that your boy routinely knows how proud you are of him for slogging thru what is a tough patch of road right now. One last thing- mail is a big deal- and care packages are a big hit- I've mentioned this before but my wife always sends stuff from an online bakery in Boston The Dancing Deer Bakery http://www.dancingdeer.com/index.cfm?session=EEUFQE8&gclid=CPSkvNyrrKsCFUqK4Aodslrd4A. She found them because they always deliver fast, it's always fresh, it's enough to make sure the whole room gets some and in one piece (and cause she doesn't bake!)- she just sent a cake for one of my son's room mates 21st Birthday- (the baby of the room - I hope they aren't too stupid when they go up town to celebrate!)

    PM me if you would like- Be a rock!:thumb:


     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2011
  4. Brodie07

    Brodie07 Member

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    DS is currently a freshman (I dislike the term "knob") at the Citadel,so while not at VMI certainly plenty of similar experiences. Our son knew what to expect (he is a military brat with two SA graduates for parents). He has been surprised and frequently discouraged by the freshman year "experience". Going back to ancient history it is something that we can distantly remember. Some truths kept the year in focus for us and so far for our son as well.

    1. Don't look to far out. Pick short term goals. Making it to the weekend, parents weekend, etc. The year seems insurmountable if you think that you have to get to April.

    2. Look around you, that upperclassman that you don't think highly of made it. If that individual can so can you.

    3. Get all the rest you reasonably can. We remember (and our son reports) lots of freshman staying up until two or three in the morning shining brass, ironing uniforms etc. Do the best you can in a reasonable amount of time. The upperclassman will ALWAYS find something to yell about. No amount of shining, ironing or freshman knowledge will relieve you of attention if it is your "turn".

    4. Don't forget academics. Far too many freshman focus on upperclassman (after all professors don't scream) and end up in academic trouble.

    As parents this year seems very long. We tend to hear from our kids when they are unhappy. When life seems difficult we try to remind our son why he chose the Citadel. Focusing on his reasons for attending helps him to get through his current trials and tribulations. Keep in mind you are less likely to hear from your son when his life is going well. Everyday is not a bad one. There are many times when he is successful. If he is like most he has a harder time focusing in on the successes when so many upperclassmen will point out his failures. Hope this gives you something you can use.
     
  5. sprog

    sprog Member

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    Bruno, was Doc Monsour there when you were a cadet?

    He was a great counsel when needed in circumstances like the OP describes. I think he has been gone from VMI for a few years.

    To the OP: when you talk to your son, let him vent away his frustrations but encourage him to push on. His first recourse should be his BRs, but if that isn't helping, there are people at VMI that he can talk to.

    Bruno's suggestion about the countdowns is a good idea, and it's been around at VMI for ages, I'm sure. Have him figure out how long until PW, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. "28 days and a wakeup" (or whatever) is how he needs to start his day. Little goals all along the way, and then before you know it, the Ratline is over.

    September is one of the crappiest months for Rats. The upperclassmen haven't gotten bogged down in their academics yet, so they still like to give the Rats sh#t. You watch how that drops off after midterms.

    In summary: focus on grades, set little goals, and vent when you need to. If BRs aren't enough, use the Chaplain (or what we used to call the S-5 staff) to help.

    -VMI'99
     
  6. Lawman32RPD

    Lawman32RPD Member

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    Our Fish at TAMU is going through some similar experiences. The set up at TAMU is a bit different, the Fish are in various units or "outfits" in TAMU speak. In our Fish's outfit there are are about 25+ Fish, with about 25 upperclasspeople (sophomores, juniors, and seniors). We've been trying to send a lot of mail and just yesterday all of the Fish in the unit received some cookies that I had baked and mailed off (Oatmeal/Raisin/Chocoloate Chip baked in a cookie sheet and cut with a pizza wheel to resemble "Fish Sticks" -I just kill me with my humor).

    Our Fish also has the similar experience regarding distance and a tinge of homesickness, as the Fish is in College Station and Dad is stationed about 900 miles to the west and Mom is about 1,500 miles to the northeast with oun - so when a lot of the Corps clears out over the weekend (a difference between TAMU and VMI) the Fish is a bit lonely. The postcards and letters I've sent emphasize that Fish are a lot closer to being in High School than in college so, like many of us, they go back to what they know - and that this will change and mature. Our Fish wrote today that she'd been wondering if the Corps was the right decision for next year but the Fish's answer was "duh" (which I interepret to mean yes).

    Again, while this is a life I haven't led - so I speak from abject ignorance -I've learned a lot from reading this site for several years. I've reminded our Fish that the "suck" will really begin now and last until late February - by then the Fish will be seeing Spring Break in mid March - and when they come back it will be a short 7 weeks. By the "suck" I mean that the newness is wearing off, classes are starting, getting up at 5am many days is tougher to live than read about, and there are a lot of extra demands on SMC students. The letters and postcards - sent at the rate of 4 + a week - remind the Fish that it is, to borrow the phrase - the path less traveled and that makes all the difference and that Mom and Dad support her. I've also used a line I borrowed from my late father - who said it took him 6+ months to get used to being in the Marines in WW2 - and at least 6 months to be used to not being in the Marines afterwards - the point being that it's going to be an adjustment being in an SMC rather than living at home with Mom and Dad in high school.

    Our Fish is going to have to make up her mind. I also told our Fish what the Cadet who is the TAMU Corps Commander this year told the parents - that he wanted to quit many many times and he's glad he didn't. I liked the idea in the thread about emphasizing X days to Y event and will talk to our Fish about that in tomorrow's letter. A young man I know is a Rat this year at VMI (he was in our son's Scout Troop, and his Dad is Naval Academy graduate and became a friend as a result of the Troop) and he was discussing some of the more onerous details to VMI Ratelife to his Dad who relayed 'em to me. I'm going to send him a letter too.

    Best Wishes to all.

    Lawman32RPD
     
  7. easter2

    easter2 Member

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    I have sent goodie boxes from home and postcards when I am out traveling; dad sends letters. For a kid who said before Matriculation Day that he would email me 'every couple of weeks', I am getting much email every day-most of it is the whiny nature.
    I had him write his dad a few of the 'stories' that he already has under his belt, which he did and allowed me to read. Underneath it all, I see stories that he will remember all of his life and wouldn't be able to tell if he didn't live it. I remind him that nothing he is telling me or experiencing is a first for VMI or a rat, even a fellow BR in the next room most likely (or any other similar); and he knew all about the stuff before he even applied and went for it. He was even there for the first overnight visit last Fall, where he came out Saturday morning giddy as a teenager seeing Justin Bieber :rolleyes: So, as I have told him--the only difference is reading about it, seeing it in Youtube videos, etc and actually being part of it.
    I support him 100% but I also try to get him out of the tunnel vision that he, and probably many of his fellow BR's, are facing. He has only been able to call a couple of times, which is fine ...
     
  8. pennak

    pennak Member

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    I hear your pain. My DS is also currently a Rat. He seems to be holding up well, but he has found the Lexington Host Family to be a wonderful relief, as is church in Lexington on Sunday. Both allow them to get off Post and off the ratline for awhile, which is what they really, really need. My DS's hostfamily has a basement rec room and they give my DS *hamburgers* and junk food and all the stuff that they can't get at Crozet Hall where the food is, ah, less than gourmet. Perhaps a suggestion to your DS to find himself a host family. Please feel free to Private Message me for details.
     
  9. easter2

    easter2 Member

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    My DS got a host family from church last week but has not met them yet...he is hoping to this Sunday (and I am too). I heard he got some goodies and a nice note delivered to him from the host family/church-which was pretty cool. Hopefully it will provide a little respite for him.
    I had him write up some of the things that has gone on so far-which he did. I thought it was pretty neat and if he could see outside of the tunnel vision, he would realize that what he wrote me were similar to stories he had read, heard about, seen on Youtube when looking into VMI (which was his first and only place he wanted to attend).
    We have been sending him goodie boxes, letters and postcards plus email. I will try out a few of the suggestions and switch things up. He is looking forward to Parents Weekend (hopefully not as much moaning and groaning or he will get a smack up the side of the head LOL) and he said he was doing something with the Army aspect in a couple of weeks...I try to get him to focus on upcoming things or the one 'good' thing a day...
     
  10. pennak

    pennak Member

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    Sounds to me that you are doing everything right!! As Bruno says, every cadet has his moments of doubt. If you take it one day at a time, it will pass. After all, there is a time limit (ultimately graduation but in the short term Thanksgiving, XMas, Breakout, etc). You can endure anything if there is a time limit. You may wish to remind him that nothing really worthwhile comes easy, especially a VMI diploma. My DS is counting the number of dropouts in his Ratmass and priding himself that he is not among them. That's something by itself.
     
  11. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    Easter- I'm pretty sure he'll be ok. "*****ing" is really part of the VMI experience too. And Homesickness comes with the turf- though you do get over it. I was a Cadet in the days of pay phones and snail mail- and October was the first time that I got to see my parents. I can still remember how hard that first phone call home was: I could barely speak. The things that kept me going- 1. I couldn't imagine going home and telling my dad that I couldn't do it. 2. My brother rats were all miserable together (Misery actually does love company!) which I quickly realized. 3. I had an Aunt and Uncle who came up to visit me when I had only been there a couple of weeks. In addition to delivering goodies- my Uncle was a USMA 60 grad and one of his classmates was a Tac there)- he regaled me with all of the stories of how miserable he had been. I guess that I realized - it passes. It will pass for your boy too. You are doing good stuff to help him keep his perspective. One other thing- just keep emphasizing to him- that your perspective usually changes a lot as you progress. If he stick it out till the end of Rat year and it hasn't changed- well then he gave it a fair shot and left on his own terms. Before that- he is really leaving on others terms- it's a pride thing.

    Good luck- Parents weekend is almost here.:thumb:
     
  12. bjkuds

    bjkuds Parent

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    The host family on Sunday, attending church off post and Glee Club have brought sanity to my DS. Those are his words. The importance of activities outside of Barracks is huge. I stopped in for a 2 hour visit the other day on my way back from Charlotte and caught him in between classes. He told me anything that you can do to get out of Barracks and out of Rat line the better life is. He lives in the study areas and in his Dykes room as much as he is allowed because they are safe zones from the "bad people". He makes a quasi twisted mental game of the yelling and has adjusted to the overwhelming responsibilities that just about took him under. He was a mess the first 2 weeks but has righted himself and gotten through thus far. It is very hard. He is always exhausted yet he is having fun with a few aspects of it. I think the greatest thing he does is when he messes up...He remembers that he is not the first to spill juice on his BR's or drop his gun..(yikes) or stink at inspection..They are Rats..They stink at everything to almost everyone. That is the hard thing that no matter how hard you try..you stink by virtue of your place in the class system until after breakout. Add to it homesickness that DS never expected to feel and it compounds the issues. DS told me on 3 consecutive calls the first thing out of his mouth was "I want to come home". I wasn't sure if he was serious or not so I replied..I will pick you up before Thanksgiving ..Then I subtly ask "Did you make a mistake in choosing VMI over a year ago because your dreams have suddenly changed or did they not know what they were doing when YOU were selected to go there. He immediately changes the subject to the latest reason he had to push etc, so I don't think he has been serious. Yet it is difficult and I know he has had a few days that were really depressing. I try to re kindle in his mind all the reasons he wanted to go there in the first place,, The reason DS chose the school wasn't to endure the RAT line...but the end results of enduring it. DS told me every week feels like it lasts a month, and is just hoping that things get better, but says he will stick it out no matter what. I gave him plenty of opportunities to change his mind and go home up until he signed the book on matriculation day. After that.. call your grandmother to get you..(she doesn't drive and is in a nursing home) In other words..NO you are staying. But I know my son and I see positive changes in him like manners and appreciation for the smallest things.. He recognizes that he is changing too so he can see that it isn't senseless that they go through this. Hopefully your DS will find a source of encouragement as well that gives him the push that he needs to get through. I expect about every other call to vary from ..This is great to this is Hell.. Good luck to you easter...hang in there. "Its a horrible place to be but a great place to be from" so said DS last week...it's a roller coaster.
     
  13. HMQ

    HMQ Member

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    Just to re-state the “up” side of the torture your Rats are enduring: the system is designed to be a Great Equalizer. All Rats, regardless of their different backgrounds – popularity (or lack there-of) in high school, rich, poor, sports stars, brain-iacs – are in the Rat Mass melting pot where they learn to rely on each other, and are judged only by their performance in the Rat Line in the here-and-now. They truly become Brother Rats (men and women alike.)

    My son was a Rat last year, confessing at Parents’ Weekend that he questioned his decision to go to VMI instead of a “normal” college. But his answer to his own question was that he couldn’t picture himself anywhere else. As you’ve already heard what seems to be the VMI mantra for how to survive the Rat Line, he followed his Dyke’s advice to set short-term goals, “forget about Breakout – it doesn’t exist. Just think about the closest thing you can look forward to: New Market Oath weekend, then Parents’ Weekend, then Thanksgiving.” And he really appreciated the Sunday respite with his host family. The year really did fly by (easy for me to say), and by the time we picked him up in May and asked him if he was still having second thoughts, there was no way he would consider leaving VMI. Surviving the Rat Line and Breakout were sources of great pride of accomplishment. And he had formed true BR bonds – priceless!

    Hang in there Rat (and Fish and Knob) Parents! And if your Rats need a pep talk, remind them there are many thousands who have been down this road – and survived and thrived! (And, dare I add, we’re talking the dark ages of the “old days” – but that’s another thread :wink:)
     
  14. Lynpar

    Lynpar Member

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    Easter2 my kid is a plebe at USMMA and your original post was valid and welcome there too. I love reading all the perspectives from the parents of kids from all the academies and schools. VMI was my kids first choice for ROTC if he went the ROTC route. The main thread for Service Academy Parents also has many threads of shared experiences no matter which zip code the kid is in. Tell us how it goes and please post again with what you found worked or how things progress.

    Even though a pilot slot is available at USMMA a helicopter parents slot is much easier to get,,,,lololololo. I crack myself up!
     
  15. easter2

    easter2 Member

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    It seems to vary day by day and even during the day. I advised to start a journal or simply pull up a blank word doc to write in; also to talk to his dyke (if he felt safe in doing so), an upperclassman, the chaplain, even the counseling center/peer counselors. He pooh-poohed the idea but then brought up the fact how he wrote in his journal and how sad it made him.
    This weekend is the first prospective cadet overnighters and my DS told me this morning he has been assigned a prestrain--I'll be interested to hear how that goes
     
  16. pennak

    pennak Member

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    I heard that VMI just had (last week) its first drum out of this year. A First Classman, for breaches of certification. My DS called it a deeply "chilling" experience. Then the Rats went to visit the D-Day memorial at Bedford, VA, which had the highest number per capita losses on D-Day of any place in the United States. My DS said that visiting there reminded him that the Rat line is nothing by comparison. Then there was the two mile run with M-14s (which, at 11 lbs, are not light). These kids are going through some really important formative experiences. We should all be very proud of them.
     
  17. sprog

    sprog Member

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    A bongo furlough as a First. That blows. It happens every year, though.
     
  18. RahVaMil2009

    RahVaMil2009 Member

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    In the immortal words of COL Bill Badgett '53: "And then we'll all be dancin' to the midnight boogie."
     
  19. pennak

    pennak Member

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    "What WAS he thinking" (Apparently, not at all). Made a VERY big impression on the Rats I hear.
     
  20. bruno

    bruno Retired Staff Member

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    We had a guy our graduation week. My take was - he finally got caught because there just seemed no way that you can suddenly make that kind of an error at the end of it all.
    Regardless- - it's a very depressing feeling when you watch the honor court roll out in the middle of the night and hear that name read off. But there isn't anyone there for more than a couple of weeks who doesn't understand that the honor code is a one shot deal and you don't play games with honor issues.
     

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