The Best of Zaphod - Advice for Parents


10-Year Member
Founding Member
Jun 8, 2006
I speak from experience, so listen up.

Many of you on this board will soon (if you have not already) had your son/daughter receive the much-awaited acceptance letter to USNA or NAPS. You are, of course, immensley proud of your kid, and you have every right to be. I offer you my congratulations on raising a kid of the level of quality that allows them to be admitted.

Now, here's the advice: BACK OFF!

Your kid needs you to be there for them, to hear them *****, to hear them gripe, to vent, and then, maybe, to offer them advice. DO NOT try to "put yourself in our shoes" or any such nonsense. Unless you have been to the Academy yourself, you have no earthly clue what it's like, and more often than not your exuberance and desire to help your kid simply ticks them off.

This happens for a simple reason: It's annoying.

The kids are in an environment, probably for the first time in their lives, where what Mommy and Daddy think bears about as much relevence to the situation at hand as the temperature on the surface of Alpha Centauri. They are bing judged on what THEY do, not what YOU think. They are also being taught, in a very direct manner, to fend for themselves and to rely on their classmates. As those of you who have been through "elite" programs (or worse - combat) know, a bond develops among those who go through it together that is oftentimes stronger than anything at home. They will also cling to girlfriends/boyfriends more than they will to you. It's natural.

Additionally, your attempts to "understand", or to be gung-ho Navy Parents, will very likely light your kid off like an ICBM. You CANNOT understand because you haven't DONE it, and as for your exuberance, ask any Mid what they think of that flashy little catalog the Candidate Guidance Office sent them, and see if ANY of it bears any resemblance to reality. Go on; I dare you.

They will call home crying. They will beg to come home. They will ask you if they should quit. DO NOT tell them either "Yes" or "No". You need to help them make their OWN decision. You need to be there to hear them vent. You need to be there to remind them, as only someone with twice their years or more knows, that pain is temporary, but pride is forever. They need to understand that if they decide the place is not for them, that you won't think less of them. You also need to remind them that whatever decision they make, they will have to look the person who made it in the eye every morning for the rest of their lives when they look in the mirror.

There will be mood swings the like you have never seen. They will laugh maniacally then roar with rage. If you try to push too hard, they will push back, HARD. You can no longer LEAD them, you have to be there to offer GUIDANCE and SUPPORT, and only when they ASK for it.

Tell them now you are proud of them (as if your eyes will not when they take the oath and come to you one last time before they disappear in to the Hall to begin Plebe Summer), and tell them that no matter what happens, you are there. Tell them they can do it, but that THEY have to believe it.

Be proud, but do not treat your kid as a trophy. Do not introduce him as "This is my son, John. He goes to the Naval Academy!". It is not received well. (Besides, we like to drop that bomb ourselves! :wink: ) They are adults, and candidates in the most elite Officer-Accension program in the United States Navy. TREAT THEM LIKE IT!

As for you Pleber-soon-to-be's, take it easy on your folks. They have no way of knowing the **** being flung at you. All they see are the ads, the catalogs, the movies, and their little kid being a part of it. Pride is not the word, and I know this only from seeing my own parents and those of my classmates. Someday, perhaps, I'll feel it first hand.

Stay the course. Never quit. Never surrender. Remember that you are training to become warriors for a nation at war. This is the big leagues, people. Play for KEEPS.

I only wish someone had told me this when I was in HS. Would have saved me no end of grief!

I cut and pasted the post above from the other place, but not the whole thread. Unlike my other "Best of..." thread, this one is best served by starting over with what is above. The thread at the other place turned into a needless flamefest, with myself carrying part of the blame.

This is posted here as it was originally intended: to help parents realize something that they might overlook for the best of reasons.

Well Written, Well Taken


Well written, thank you for the advice. Will put your words in the old memory bank and pull them up over the next few years. Keep it coming, we need to hear it.

Z's advice extends further than the halls of the US Naval Academy. I can't speak for the Merchant Marine Academy, Military Academy or Air Force Academy, however I can say, from personal experience, that advice does extend to the US Coast Guard Academy. I assume they apply to the other three academies I mentioned above.

I have to go pick up my laundry, but when I get back, I will throw out my own advice, not nearly as good as Zaph's best of, but hopefully helpful.
I second Z's advice.

A couple of other thoughts: try to keep in mind that your child is the one at USNA, NOT you. "We" aren't having a tough time plebe year, "he" or "she" is.

If your child is an athlete or mega-striper and they or you in some other way get different/"special" privileges, discussing it with -- let alone lording it over -- other parents or mids is not cool. Be grateful and be silent.

Don't insist your mid wear his/her uniform to every family wedding, dinner or other non-military event. Some mids are happy/proud to wear it outside of USNA and others really want to get away from it for a few hours.

Don't always introduce your son/daughter as: "This is John/Marry. You know he/she goes to USNA." Let your child make that known as he/she desires.

DO send care packages and email/letters as permitted.

Let your mid do nothing at all when on weekends or leave. Sometimes the best thing in the world is to sit around and watch TV (or pay video games or whatever).
I want to third all this brilliant tried & true advice from a parent's perspective. I'll be the first to admit that a few of the words of wisdom spoken here have been learned the hard way by myself & family members. Nothing too drastic. Just how things are through the eyes of an Academy kid. I found it very disappointing that he would rather sleep than run around everywhere with us or that he did not want to wear the uni at every freaking family function we had. :redface: Needless to say, we've learned a lot over the years about precious needed free time. I think some kids try hard to make family happy by bending to our wishes sometimes because they know their breaks are short lived & that they want to make up for the 3 months we hadn't had a heart to heart talk about whats going on with Academy life. When Z first said the word "Back-off", whew, that was the best advice ever. So.... I so agree with all this. Let them sleep when they want, eat when they want & sit in silence for a nice change. Its all good.
I forgot to add anything after I did my laundry. I don't think I needed to, Zaph did a great job.
Honestly, I agree with most of the above.
Except for this:

Let your mid do nothing at all when on weekends or leave. Sometimes the best thing in the world is to sit around and watch TV (or pay video games or whatever).

As a parent, when your cadet/mid comes home, I think you should treat them as "normally" as possible.
If there are other siblings, they may not appreciate mom and dad putting Junior on a pedestal. Keep your kid grounded.
My cadet has other siblings a couple who are close in age. She is not "allowed" to complain about how hard she has it. She made her choice.
I admit I am more "sympathetic" to her than her siblings are but they do keep her in line!
I would expect her to help out as much as any other children I have who visit.
When she comes home for the holidays - I can't imagine I would get away with letting her veg on the sofa while the rest of the siblings are helping out with cooking and cleaning etc. Definitely won't work in our house ;)
Oh, my. I step out for a bit and find this. :eek:

I'll begin by thanking everyone for their kind remarks. If what I wrote was in any way useful, then I am flattered. :redface:

I can't imagine I would get away with letting her veg on the sofa while the rest of the siblings are helping out with cooking and cleaning etc. Definitely won't work in our house ;)

I realize in hindsight that my comment could be interpreted that way. That was NOT, however, my intention. Not at all.

What I had in mind is the stories of parents who insist on carting their Mid/Cadet to school functions, friend's houses, and family reunions because "Everyone wants to know what you're doing! Come on!", or dragging them off to join in the holiday shopping, or dragging them off to volunteer someplace YOU volunteered for.

Don't do that. Ask, and if the kid wants to go then that's fine. If he wants to stay home and veg, then let him!

Now, does this mean give them carte blanche to lay around doing nothing while the rest of the house is in a flurry of activity? No, not at all. I'm certainly not going to blanket-dictate how such things should go in such circumstances, but there is a difference between giving the kid their space and having them become Lord Of All They Survey, just like there is a difference between being proud of your kid and being an overbearing snob.

To be honest, I doubt that a Mid/Cadet of any quality would actually pull such a stunt in any case. Kids that selfish generally don't get into USxA or do well if they do manage to slip through.
^^^^^^^^^^^^Fully agreed. (Oh, my. Is this a first? :smile:)

I wouldn't say they are selfish - but having know plenty of older teens and young twenties, they can be a bit "self-centered". I say that as a loving Mom!
In the end - our mids/cadet are young adults and very similar to other young adults.
Just don't let them pull the "I have it so rough" card. :wink:

I don't think I could get my cadet in her uniform even if I begged on my knees! Heck, I can't even get her to sign up for her mandtory photos yet!
I wouldn't say they are selfish - but having know plenty of older teens and young twenties, they can be a bit "self-centered". I say that as a loving Mom!

I say it as a former Mid! :biggrin:
Mine is a selfish little wog. But we did get him to mow & edge the yard last week-end with no fuss. That was a change. :biggrin: I also got the same story with the official photos. He did one Plebe year & told me I could have one more this last year. I better get it too.