Whip-sawed Parent

Discussion in 'Service Academy Parents' started by DrJ, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. DrJ

    DrJ Member

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    I am really struggling with how to be supportive of our DS as he figures out which path to choose: USNA or public university w/ or w/o NROTC.

    Some days I think attending USNA is the most amazing opportunity for him;
    other days I think this is the worst idea ever. Sometimes I feel like this is a calling, like the priesthood or medicine, and that type of desire to be of service can be hard to understand unless you feel it yourself. Other times I think this is a training program and a job and stop being so dramatic already.

    I suspect part of my problem is we are not a military family and this is foreign territory. I have tried to do my research (this forum has helped a lot--thanks!) but I still feel like in some ways I just don't fully "get it."
    Another aspect of my struggle is that, although DS has always had a keen interest in military history, the option of a SA was not something he mentioned until about 8 months ago. He has worked his tail off in that time span to make this happen; I am so proud of his hard work and persistence, but it's not given us much time to adjust.

    I feel like my due diligence as a parent forces me to ask him if he has thought of X and considered Y, where X and Y are often (not always) the less attractive parts of military training and service. I wonder if I would feel compelled to be doing this if he wanted to go to the University of Whatever--I just don't think so! This feels different.

    Bottom line: it is his path to chose and I know he will bring great things to whatever he does in life.

    How have parents handled this mess of feelings--how have you managed to be supportive but also be that voice of reality? And for young men and women who have been on the receiving end of this mess of feelings--no matter what your final decision was--how could your parents have best supported you?
     
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  2. Blondie1

    Blondie1 Member

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    DS is a current plebe. I can relate with your emotional turmoil. We are a non-military family as well. It has been a roller coaster ride of emotions. DS has adapted to life at the academy. We have been supportive even though we do not really understand this journey he has chosen. At times we are filled with incredible pride (much to his dismay) other times we wish he had gone with one of his other choices closer to home (we are on the west coast). DS has never been one to share his emotions, so we don't really know his true feelings. We do know he has been homesick at times. I do believe he feels he has chosen the best future for himself. I think he believes very strongly regarding the path he is on. We have joined the local parents groups and that has helped us greatly. I appreciate your uncertainty. In the end the choice must be theirs--they won't survive the academy if they don't REALLY want it. (And even then a few don't get through). I often wonder why kids choose the route of a SA. Seems to me many complain LOUDLY on socail media. And yet I see families where multiple generations, and multiple siblings have taken the same path. Can't be THAT bad can it? We worry greatly about him, but most of all we provide him with our love, support, and lots of care packages. We spend the money to fly him home whenever possible, and we are very fortunate that he has the best sponsor family. If your DS decides to take the SA path it won't be easy on you or him. It is a truly wild ride. Hold on tight and just hope for the best!
     
  3. sheriff3

    sheriff3 Member

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    DrJ, I was a 1 tour enlisted Marine so I would not say our family was a military family in any way at all. Our DS briefly considered applying for an SA but pretty early on he decided to do AROTC at a large instate school. No regrets. He feels this is the best of both worlds for him, traditional college experience and the military experience he was interested in. DD applied to USMA but did not get the nomination and ended up enlisting in AF and is now having the time of her life stationed in England and doing a lot of travel on her days off. Bottom line is they will find their path. The military can be scary and confusing for those who have not been through the " machine" . Hang in there.
     
  4. ahs67

    ahs67 Member

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    I remember going through some of this last year with my son, who is now a Plebe.
    My husband was military (ROTC) but remarked this experience was very foreign to him as well. My son was lucky to have received an early appointment but he sat on it for nearly 6 months before he sent in the paperwork. Like your son, he had a few nice options. I can't say that USNA was a clear #1 either-not at all. In the end he decided he liked the idea of taking an unconventional approach and challenging himself in a way none of his friends were. He knew he wanted to serve in the military but wasn't quite decided which road to take. Reflecting on some of the conversations we had, my husband and I were really careful to just let him talk it out. Sometimes we'd play devils advocate, but we did not want to insert ourselves or our opinions into this process. It had to be his decision.

    I was just relieved he finally made a decision so I knew where to throw my emotional energy and support. I had my doubts though. On IDay, after he took the oath we were briefly reunited and he literally looked like the proverbial deer in the headlights. He later told me the first week of Plebe summer was rough but after he got the hang of it, it was fun. Go figure. He's happy with his choice, even in spite of the pressures of Plebe year.

    About you "not getting it", welcome to the club. There is a large group of formerly clueless parents ready to welcome you and demystify the whole experience for you. We are all learning as we go. And I think you are doing the right thing helping your son consider all his options.
     
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  5. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    I think serving in the military often is a calling as the OP mentioned, especially for members of the officer corps. DS's original plan was to enlist in the Marine Corps with 2 of his high school buddies. OK by me but his Mom was dead set against him going in the military. There were a lot of arguments at the dinner table for a few months during his junior year. I kept explaining to my wife privately that since he'll be 18 when he graduates, she really can't stop him from enlisting. I think it finally sunk in when she changed her tune to "OK. College first and if your going into the military you will do it as an officer." That's when he started looking at NROTC (at Mom's suggestion) and became enamored of it. He started an application to USNA but never finished it, as he wanted a normal college experience. His Mom became very supportive and really helped drive the search for colleges and visits. Of course she is still worried about him but is also very very proud and supportive. NROTC has been the center of my son's life and I often explain that his academic major is History but it's really NROTC.

    One of DS's buddies did enlist in the Marines. The other is in AFROTC and will commission within days of my son this May.

    One thing I did have a problem with was others who wondered why we would let our son do that?!?!? WHat do you mean he wants to go in the infantry? You told him no, right?" That stuff really pissed me off especially from my sister-in-law. Finally one night I told her this was his calling and she needs to support him in doing it. Also, I didn't want to hear all of her whiny concerns anymore. Haven't heard a peep out of her about it since.

    Hope there is something useful to someone in these ramblings! :)
     
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015
  6. payitforward

    payitforward Member

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    One thing's pretty much for sure: if your son gets started at USNA or in NROTC, and he determines it's not the right fit, he'll still have plenty of options, and the rollercoaster YOU'RE on won't really stop until...

    somebody tell me when it stops.
     
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  7. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    I am eternally grateful for my parents letting me chart my own course so long ago to USNA. I never knew their feelings but I did know they would be incredibly disappointed had I flunked out.
     
  8. NavyHoops

    NavyHoops Moderator

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    My parents let me chart my own course. I was also one who did not vocalize much to my family, I tend to be quiet and really think about things in my head. I was a recruited athlete and took my 5 NCAA qualified visits to include Navy. I chose Navy all on my own, it just felt right. Even if your DS isnt' vocalizing things, trust me, he is really thinking them through. If he has come to the decision on his own, trust him with it. As to supporting, the best thing you can do is tell him you love him and will support him no matter what. I saw many Mids come to Navy for all the wrong reasons, especially because their parents wanted them to. This can be a bad combo and some will leave. I often say many Mids come to Navy for a variety reasons, some well intentioned and others questionable. The bottom line is the all end up staying because they know and want to serve, lead and be a Naval Officer. I also saw Mids who really hated being at Navy but didn't want to leave and disappoint their families. This can be a horrible combination. Just because it is not the right fit for someone does not mean they failed. As long as he knows he is supported, has a place to vent when he is struggling or frustrated and has a place to come no matter what, then you have done what every Mid hopes to have at home. Best of you luck to your DS and family.
     
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  9. mom3boys

    mom3boys Parent

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    Totally agree w/ above posts. Kids who gain admission into SAs are able to succeed anywhere. If it's not the right place, they will know it and will chart a new course. I'm not sure if I communicated that effectively to my 2012 grad, but my CC 2019 has heard me say over and over "if it's not for you, you are free to leave any time after beast." (I think they should finish beast for the sense of accomplishment, but that's just me).
     
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  10. MedB

    MedB Parent

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    Dr J,

    First.... you aren't crazy or alone. :) Pretty common concerns actually for parents of these high-achieving young people that choose the military.

    Second... Remember that while the ultimate goal of the SAs is the same, young people choose to go there for many reasons. Our DS always knew he wanted to be in the military; super hardcore about wanting to be a CRO even. Crazy insane in shape, super motivated, and he still found some aspects USAFA too challenging; especially being away from home and girlfriend. DD on the other hand NEVER wanted the military. Though she always loved challenging herself in ways most others don't. She went to summer seminar on a lark and fell in love! It's difficult of course, but she's never felt more at home in her life than she does at USAFA. Now she's truly engaged in becoming the best officer she can and making a difference in the world that way.

    The point? You've done an amazing job raising one of our nations best and brightest; you have to trust that they will find their own path. You've set them up for that success, now try to enjoy watching them realize it. ;)
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2015
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  11. sam9080

    sam9080 Member

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    What a great post! Thank you for bringing this issue up. I am also struggling but it is because I am 'bias" towards USNA. My DS is a 2/c at USNA and thriving in all areas. It is amazing to see the positive changes every time he comes home. He is playing a varsity sport, double majoring, tutoring, has established life long friendships and has the best sponsors anyone can ever imagine. My DD received an appointment and NROTC scholarship (1st choice school) also and is unsure about her decision. She attended CVW and summer seminar as well as the two colleges and ROTC units of her choice. Interestingly her brother the mid was so excited when she received the appointment and his sponsors offered to sponsor her also. It is so difficult for any 18yr old to make this decision especially when many adults including me would have made different choices if they could do it again. I know her personality and feel she would thrive at USNA but will respect her decision. She definitely wants to serve and is excited about the positions becoming available to women despite the negative feedback she sometimes encounters due to her gender. I hope she doesn't choose USNA because of her brother and the support. It will be a long couple of months!
     
  12. DrJ

    DrJ Member

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    Thanks so much for your suggestion of a parents' group--I think that would be very helpful.

    Based on the take-no-prisoners approach to his application process, I think he really wants this.

    I didn't think I wanted any part of this until DS heard he might be DQ'd for medical reasons. A few months ago I would have imagined that hearing this news would have meant expressing some sympathy, then privately doing the dance of joy. What I actually felt was sadness that something he wanted so much might be slipping through his hands. I was really surprised--I suspect that DS is not going to be the only one changed by this process!

     
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  13. DrJ

    DrJ Member

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    Thanks for your comments, especially on the issue of others' reactions to a child's decision to apply to a SA or consider ROTC.
    We live in a very liberal part of the country, and I have had friends look at me as if I have three heads when I tell them what DS is considering.
    It's made for some awkward moments.
    But it's also resulted in a number of friends sharing the deep regrets they have for interfering with their DS/DD's choice of college and career path, and that's the part I hang onto.
     
  14. Socaldad2019

    Socaldad2019 New Member

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    Great post.....we have been going through the same emotional roller coaster since our DS became the Principle Nominee for the Class of 2019 USMA. Then about 3 weeks ago he received his appointment. Having spent hundreds of dollars on applying to UCLA, USC, Hopkins, Vandy and George Wash, we told him to hold off till he hears from all the schools and then make the best decision for him. It will be hard for any of those schools to beat out the USMA, but we think he owes it to himself to make an informed decision.

    That being said, his mom and I both went to a traditional college and after working for 9 years in finance, I made the move to the LAPD, so I get how huge of an opportunity this is for him. I know that with WP on his resume, his dream of working in the FBI, CIA, DHS, or a Think Tank, will be an attainable goal. On the downside though is just us feeling sorry for ourselves because he's not closer to home and we won't be able to spend the same amt of time together. I can't just go grab him from USC and head to the Dodger game. That is what makes me sad.....but I also know this is a once in a lifetime opportunity for him and I need to swallow my tongue and let him follow his dreams.
     
  15. kinnem

    kinnem Moderator

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    What follows is perhaps a bit off topic and is certainly only my opinion... however, I don't think you or your DS need to wait to hear from all the schools to make a decision/ranking. You [should] already know enough about each of the schools to at least know which ones you prefer and the order in which you prefer them. If you don't know this then you need more information than knowing whether you were accepted by a particular school. If you do know your ranking, then the only reason to wait is to see if #1 accepts you. Wishing good luck to your DS on whichever path he chooses.
     
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  16. Blondie1

    Blondie1 Member

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    local parents group has been a wonderful support group. People you can talk to that understand what your kid is going thru! Have made some amazing new friends. I recommend anyone new to this whole SA thing find a parents group. The help and advice from our group has helped us better understand this very unique world our son has entered.
     
  17. Capt MJ

    Capt MJ Member

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    Socaldad and other parents, look ahead to the day when your son or daughter invites you on a Tiger Cruise, when a Navy ship allows officers and crew to bring a family member on the transit from Pearl Harbor to San Diego, or other cruise segment - you will bust with pride as you watch your son or daughter talk to their division, or show you their ship. Or you will be asked to come meet up with them at a port call in Singapore, in Copenhagen, in Perth. Or maybe you are in the stands at a Navy home football game, and it's your son or daughter in the lead Hornet in the flyover, and you hear their name announced. Or they get a foreign exchange tour on a British ship, and you see England like a local. You will watch them get winged with tears in your eyes. You will give them that amazing hug pier side after months submerged. You will watch in awe as they get promoted, and down the road, read their orders as they assume command of a ship, a squadron, a sub, a division of Marines. During my 26 years on active duty, my family met me in Spain, Italy, Pearl Harbor, Hong Kong, London, Shannon Airport, Monte Carlo, CONUS duty stations. Yes, I went home, but my parents, who had never traveled outside the country, saved every penny so they could share some adventures with me.

    I am not neglecting the warfare side of things. The call to duty in a combat zone is part of everyday life of service in the Armed Forces. But there sure is a fun factor in the worldwide opportunities that open up.

    There is great support from other parents here and at Parents Clubs.

    There is also a great line somewhere on this forum, which I don't recall exactly, but went something like - "You taught them to fly. Let them."
     
  18. Blondie1

    Blondie1 Member

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    Goose bumps!
     
  19. DrJ

    DrJ Member

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    This is all very helpful--thank you all!

    I have asked my DS a lot of questions and he has helped me a lot. I have also tried to do some reading to educate myself and I know waaay more than I did a year ago when this was not on our radar. But I still feel like I am in the PD/PO (probably dumb/possibly offensive) question zone and feel like knowing more would help me be more supportive to my DS. I apologize in advance, but here goes:

    PD/POQ#1: From what I have read, there seems to be 3 ways to become a naval officer: 1) USNA, 2) NROTC or 3) get your BA/BS and graduate/professional degree on your own and then join the Navy as an officer. Is this correct? Does the route taken to become a naval officer make a substantial difference in your career? As in, "if you do NROTC or come to Navy post all of your education rather than doing USNA, you cannot do X, ever, and your career will be hampered in this significant way." Or do many roads lead to Rome in the Navy and what you DO as a naval officer is more important than where you came from? I am interested in opinions, but if something is a cold, hard fact it would help me if it was labeled as such.

    PD/POQ#2: Confident my DS has the smarts, fitness, integrity, character to be a naval officer. How do you know if your child has the TEMPERAMENT for a career in the military, Navy in particular? Are there some traits--those qualities in a person that are really hard wired--that are a no-go, please do not come here because you are not going to be happy and you will make the rest of us miserable? Are there traits that you need to have that just can't be taught/drilled into you? I am not referencing big character flaws here, as I hope those folks get screened out in the application process, more the subtle stuff. Love my DS's personality, think he is awesome, wish I could clone him, but I am his Mom and I am NOT the Navy.

    PD/POQ#3: DS is young (spring birthday, skipped a grade). He is definitely interested in a STEM major and career path, which I think this is consistent with his talents, but the details are understandably fuzzy. He definitely knows that he wants a profession that involves service to others. He has done a lot of research and has put a lot of thought and reflection into this process. We took him on a CVW to help him with his discernment. As his mom, I couldn't be more pleased that he has this much of his future clarified--I definitely wasn't at this point at his age, and I was no slouch. But I can't shake this feeling that there is an implication he should have this super-duper, laser focused, crystal clear vision of his long-term future with the Navy at this point and, if he doesn't, he really shouldn't squander the spot at the USNA or suck up the support of NROTC. I understand slots and support shouldn't be wasted, but jeesh! this doesn't seem reasonable to me. Thoughts?
     
  20. Spud

    Spud BGO

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    I love the PD/POQ title. I am going to use this in dealing with people in fields I know little about. Here's some quick answers for what they are worth:

    1. The join-the-Navy-as-an-officer route is officially called OCS or Officer Candidate School. A person applies just like all the other programs and, if qualified and the Navy likes what it sees, you are accepted. It is an approximately 3 month officer boot camp, if you will, where the military aspect of 4 years of NROTC or USNA get force fed to you with a fire hose. Some excellent officers come from this program. I met one who was a company officer at USNA, in fact.

    After a person gets their Ensign's bars, the way you got them is immaterial. You are judged on how you perform for the rest of your career, not where you came from. The old academy ring knocker stories are absolute myths. There is no "Old Boy" network that outsiders cannot crack. Colin Powell, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was an Army ROTC grad. If anything, Academy grads as junior officers are hammered a bit harder for screwing up as they are expected to be more up to speed on what to do in the military. However, as a group of officers gets more senior, the percentage of Academy grads increases but not because they are are blessed by Tecumseh but because they did a good job for their entire career. The military is a pyramid and rising tide of officers have to leave in order for it to work----only one guy can be the Chief of Naval Operations. A lot of non-academy officers leave for very logical reasons. ROTC sells itself a great way to get an education and you pay it back by serving as an officer for a number of years. Small wonder after the payment is made a lot of people leave. OCS can be for different reasons like a miserable economy or a desire for adventure. One day the adventures stop and you find yourself driving desks instead of war machines. Those people leave. The Academy grads leave too (I did) but the chances of an Academy grad wanting and liking a career and staying in is a bit higher just because they probably have wanted it for a long time and worked awfully hard to get it.

    #2 The only personality trait that is a real negative is the prima dona who cannot work as a team member, does not care about others or the mission of the team. The individualist who can never see beyond his own agenda should stay a long ways away from the military.

    #3 I think you are overthinking this. Goals change as a person gets education and experience. Very few people wind up in life where they thought they would be and same with our kids. They change course in life and sometimes life changes them.
     

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