USNA Parent Involvement


Jun 15, 2006
Is the Naval Academy allowing parents to become too involved? From my readings on this forum, apparently parents are more involved in organized activities than at any other Academy. In the past 10 years or so, I-Day has evolved into a circus with bleachers and live video of the barbershop. Parent's weekend has always been what it is. Sea Trials, originally a good idea, has become a showcase for the plebes to perform for their parents, akin to a trained seal exhibition as Sea World. Sea Trials combined with Herndon has become another PPW. Picnics and dinners for family. I am most positive that is why we now have over half the Brigade running around in 3rd class shoulder boards. Tradition and good order violated so that parents can see their mids in new shoulder boards and chokers.

Beyone my obvious question as to why it is necessary, for those of us who live in economically deflated areas, where a hard-earned dollar is still a dollar and affluence hasn't driven the cost of living such that a cross country plane ticket can be considered an incidental expense, do midshipmen whose parents cannot finance the requisite involvement, somehow feel inferior? Do these parents, who are also being asked for a 10k annual contribution to the Alumni Assn, also feel inferior. Also, as a taxpayer, we seem to be operating the Academy plant for longer periods when nothing constructive is really happening. I think until 1995 or so came along and broke our nadir for Herndon, we were the longest. We were actually late for our next scheduled activity, if I remember correctly. Classes until the two or three days for exams, ending on Wed, with June Week (Graduation Week) starting on Thursday through the following Wednesday. We actually had training, professional, if I remember correctly, every morning of that week up until the time to prepare for the daily P-rade.

Perhaps USNA is in cahoots with the area lodging industry to ensure they remain at 125% capacity for the entire year. Enquiring minds want to know.
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Here's a comparison from a parent new to the academy world:

My oldest son graduated from a civilian college 70 miles away from home. The only times we ever visited the campus were for freshman orientation, fall/spring - move in/move out, and commencement exercise. But, we knew we could go there and visit anytime we wanted. The campus is very small and everything is accessible. Finally, his college experience was similar to mine which means I had a relatively good idea of what was happening.

Youngest son will, hopefully, land at West Point and to a newbie like me, there is a cachet or mystery about the place. For one thing, it's much farther away from home which means we can't easily visit. For another, it is a restricted military post so someone like me just doesn't walk around unescorted. There is little opportunity to see the academy in 'action' other than sporting events which is the same, outside of Army-Navy football game, no matter what college .

As a parent with no academy background, I am more likely to take advantage of opportunities offered to visit and 'spectate' than I would have at oldest son's school. Also, the effort to gain admission to the academy is much greater than getting admitted to the civilian school. I suppose the opportunities to visit the academy for official functions involving the students are part of the return on our investment in time.
Well USNA69 for better or worse this is the Brave New World of parenting...AKA the "helicopter parent" syndrome. Parents want to be part of everything their kid does...don't want to miss out on anything. I can see that up to a point, but you're right, it's gotten out of control. There was one woman at CGA who used to visit the academy so much I told her she should get an apartment near campus :biggrin:

It happens on every level of education. Some of the "stay at home" moms come to their kids schools so much that the principal has to put a limit on it. In high school they email the teachers if the kid gets a bad mark on a paper; in college parents have been known to move near campus(you thought I was kidding above!:eek: ) to be near their dear children.

Sure things have changed since our "day." My father dropped me off at college and said "See you Christmas." I came home maybe three times a year.

Part of the problem is prosperity...people have the money to travel to events, so they do...

I can see the Commissh's points as well. An Academy is special and I know I love to go up to watch R-day, Parents Weekend, and various sports events. You don't quite get the same feeling going to Civvie U.:wink:
Sure things have changed since our "day." My father dropped me off at college and said "See you Christmas." I came home maybe three times a year.

Part of the problem is prosperity...people have the money to travel to events, so they do...

They have definitely changed. I flew up alone for I-Day and my parents visited twice, PPW and graduation.

I guess one of my concerns is prosperity. Not to overstate the situation, but some areas are much more prosperous than others and some parents just cannot afford the participation to the level to which it seems expected of them.

My other concern is the events themselves. Are they no longer an event for the midshipmen to cherish but a source of embarassment that every time they are home and have visitors, the Sea Trial DVD is pulled out. Not too many years ago, parents were not invited to Sea Trials. Now, midshipmen complain that it is useless and there is a picnic afterwards. I personally feel that there is a line of involvement that has been crossed.

With that said, sports being basically year round now, way too many Saturday mornings I left Va Bch at zero dark thirty and three 7-11 cups of coffee later found myself in the baseball stands watching a double header and then piling as many mids as I could into my car and buying them dinner somewhere in Annapolis. And then drive back home after dinner. The few Saturday nites I stayed over usually involved at least a foursome, probably two, on the USNA golf course Sunday morning. I still consider many of them friends and would not exchange the experiences for anything in the world.
Don't you think the changes at the Academy just reflect changing times? When we were kids, colleges didn't have summer orientation for students, much less for parents. Now managing parents is a whole industry at most schools.

I admire the Academy for staying current. My husband and I worked like dogs to stash away college money for our kids. Since the US government has been kind enough to offer funding for kid #3's USNA education, we intend to burn through a chunk of his college fund to visit him when he can see us (and I bet I'm not the only parent who feels this way).
Don't you think the changes at the Academy just reflect changing times? .................................I admire the Academy for staying current.

Are the other academies then behind times because I don't think any others are as involved with parents as is USNA?
We've had a couple of friends with kids who went to USAFA. They drop them off and.........that's it! :eek: Until they get to visit them 6-8 weeks later. They really don't seem that involved or have the programs set up for parents like USNA.

There is another c/o 2011 kid whose father went to USAFA. They were just going to drop him off and go to DC for a few days. When I mentioned the other things that USNA had going on that day, he was flabbergasted! I think he's changing his plans.

I was one of those parents who teased her kids about moving nearer to their perspective colleges to be near them. No, I was not serious, but I think, in part, since my husband was TDY so much, I always had more hands on time w/the kids. Thus, when my babies leave, what do I do? No, that's not a question for everyone to help with. :cool:

The way I look at it is USNA is a little kinder to parents who are giving their child to Uncle Sam. I think they realize it's a very emotional time and try to make it as easy as possible. I would not, however, want to watch my child at sea trials or Herndon. I feel it's HIS experience and my presence would only interfere with his concentration on the task at hand. I can see pictures and I want to hear all about it from HIM and HIS view. Of course, I will want to scrapbook it. Any surprises there? :biggrin:
Hey, I agree with you about 100%. USNA has the highest retention of all the academies and I am curious if the efforts they expend is somehow paying dividends there. Of course the downside of that would be do kids end up staying just because their parents have become involved and they do not want to upset the apple cart?

And like you, I would much rather hear their interpretation and experiences of an event. But wonder if that is just because I have "been there, done that" myself.
Guilty as Sin

I am one of "those parents". I am the guy at the HS Football game that knows all the kids by first name. I "hover" around the place and am involved with every parent type activity that I can be. I find it is hard to not be involved in any way I can. I am not sure it is about affluence, as it is about setting priorities. I was a HS dropout with a GED I got on the IKE CVN69. I Worked mytail off and after i got out I worked my up the ladder and eventually became an Executive Chef for one of the largest Restaurant operations in the country. After spending 60-70 hour weeks at that career I decided that the time away from the kids was too much and took an apprenticeship in another field. I finished that and after years of hard work have a successful business. The difference is that although I had the intelligence, 1450 SAT(old version) 99 ASVAB. I did not have the support or Mentoring that was needed to help me focus and stay out of trouble. I may be over compensating but I feel it is vital to be a part of the kids lives to give guidance as necessary and to champion their accomplishments. Either way I respect you and your opinion as one who been there done that.

I know that there is a time for me to let go and let them live their own lives it is tempered by the world we live in where "ME First" is the Mantra and if it feels right then do it is ok. Civ schools are teaching them that the US are the terrorists, and we are the reason for all the worlds problems. I appreciate that your opinion is that the Mids need to fly on their own. I think that the answer is somewhere between our two opinions. And BTW my proudest Moment is when my dad attended my GLakes Graduation. I wanted to show him all around and see how much it had changed or not since the 50's when he was there.
Either way I respect you and your opinion as one who been there done that.

I am not sure I have an opinion other than "that's the way I did it so it has to be correct". With sports, I was very similiar to you. However, with all the other things, I tended to let them "sink or swim" and develop in their own way at their own pace.

As a BGO, I have seven candidates entering the Class of 2011. Most, probably even all, of the parents will ask my advice on their attendance of I-Day, PPW, Herndon and Sea Trials. My advice in the past was that I-Day should be specifically what the candidate wishes, PPW definitely, and Sea Trials/Herndon was not for parents, but for the midshipmen and parents would probably be in the way. From what I have read on these forums this past year, I am questioning my advice. Honestly, just trying to get a nice dialogue going.
My advice in the past was that I-Day should be specifically what the candidate wishes, PPW definitely, and Sea Trials/Herndon was not for parents, but for the midshipmen and parents would probably be in the way.

I believe that it's all about balance. As the child grows, so should the boundries that we set for them to be successful within those expanding boundries. Balancing the difference between sharing their growth and successes, and living their lives vicariously. It's tough. I would love to eventually send my son off to Canoe U and just tell him to give me a call when he gets his butter bars. Won't happen. Mom still has a say. I agree that too much "participation" of the parents with the milestones at the academy, and in life, tend to deminish their importance. However, not showing the staunch support for good decisions and being available for the inevetiable down sides would be equally distructive.

We all have to decide what the right approach is for each child. I'm certain that my son would be mortified if Mom and Dad were standing at the edge of the "pit" during Sea Trials and would hole us with an M-9 if we were in the grandstands (can you believe that?) screaming his name at Herndon. I believe that there will be plenty of opportunities during the four years that we can share his dream(as soon as he can get past the appointment thingy).

They are not kids anymore. They're not really adults either. But now is the time that they have to learn how to excell without the prompts, reminders and "helocoptering" that we've done when they were really kids. I guess the short answer is let go until you feel 'em tugging at the line.
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Times have changes for sure. Back when I was a kid - my parents didn't go to my brother's little league games, our jr sporting events or necessarily our high school sporting events - they didn't make a big deal of any of our activities. What we did we did because we had fun doing it - not to pad our resume for college applications. That was the norm. They weren't bad parents. These days parents who dont follow their kids around from birth to college graduation are looked upon as neglectful parents - I know some grandparents who even attend all their grandchildren's functions!
Is one way good or bad? I don't know maybe just different.
I attended most of my kids games - they were fun to watch and they enjoyed me being there as long as they couldn't hear me.
I tended to sit away from most other parents - and have witnessed the ugly side of "parental involvement" first hand.

When my oldest went to college, I was very suprised at the level of parental involvement that was available. I wanted to drop her off and leave!
Since she was several hours away and other children were at home our involvement was limited - as I beleive it should have been. She did have a girl on her floor freshman year whose mother came every weekend to do laundry!
I do recall hearing stories of parents who lived near Annapolis who would visit with camera in hand to take photos during plebe summer - ewwwwww.

I think the feelings most parents have on R-Day or I-Day are normal separation feelings - these are the same feelings that most parents have whose children go far away to college. You're lives have changed -as well as your child's. Your child will not have time to be lonely for you. You will be lonely for your child. I have a daughter who just finished her second year of college 10 hours away. She loves it - I miss her. She didn't came home last summer for 2 weeks and will come home this summer for 4 weeks. She is pretty much on her own and has loved being independent.
If you have other children at home then use this time for them. Do not ignore them in your quest to document your older child's college or academy career. If this change leaves you and empty nest - take stock of your life. I cannot wait for my youngest to leave. I am ready to move on! After over 25 years of taking care of kids - I will be ready to spend some time on myself!
Above all, really enjoy your adult children. Having adult children is a completely different relationship! Be proud of the independent kids you have raised. Let them go live their lives, make their mistakes and be proud of their accomplishments. You are no longer a participant, simply a spectator - in the nosebleed section no less!
Although I will always be the boy's mom, I'm kind of interested to see what it will be like being able to step away, be a friend, and not have to parent him (although I loved parenting him).

Hmmm, from everything I've read, I was anticipating NOT seeing my son very much at USMMA once I drop him off at Indoc. Gee did I miss something, does USMMA have "spectator" events for parents to watch the "trained" mids?:yllol:
KP parents have pirates sailing the seven seas so we don't get much time on campus. Dropping at Indoc, Parent week-end then graduation is about it. Parent's Assoc. do a welcome aboard picnic & send boodle boxes, all academies ball & the like but thats about it too. They do have a formal parade at the end of Indoc that close-by parents are lucky enough to go see. Last year it was rained out. BAH! We don't get invited to Recognition Day although can't say I'd wanna be in the middle of the mud flinging riots. :biggrin:
Very interesting points of view. Having just returned from the events of last week, it was far more enjoyable than either IDay or PPW. IDay is stressful on everyone to say the least. I am glad we went, as is my son as it was very difficult on him for various reasons.

PPW was enjoyable but was really all about getting as far off the yard as possible and not returning until the last minute. Friends were still acquaintances to be introduced to but not to spend any time with :smile:

This past week was informative, fun, and relaxing; but more so it was a huge eye opener on how much these young people have grown and matured. They loved having spectators for Sea Trials (not all events were for spectators so there were still quite a few "academy only" times) The Mids got into the cheering and the energy that all of the "outsiders brought" Team ship and company pride was everywhere. The youngsters who oversaw the events were equally interested in the plebes as in the visitors, shaking hands, explaining the events, answering questions about events - giving the youngsters another place to tone their public skills- talk about a brilliant PR move by the Academy. And how fun was it to see the Class of 1960 out there trying to stay with the Plebes.

The BBQ was relaxing, the Supe and his wife out visiting with the Plebes - not about the visitors for them but all about the Plebes. Very calming to a mother to see that kind of dedication from an "administrator." The Plebes did not get an overnight after Sea Trials - maybe that will be coming in the future - one more thing for those gone before to complain about, mine would not have wanted an overnight, he not did take his evening liberty...too tired and just wanted to go back to the hall and sleep "in his own bed." We have witnessed such a growing process in the the last year, and we now see it in his environment, I don't think we saw the growth near as much while he was at home for intercessional.

The dinner - really the food was not worth the small fee to attend but the experience was priceless. The Plebes did not want to go - just another meal in Dahlgren to them but they got it... the families wanted the experience. My sons shipmates organized a place for the families to meet. We all walked in together and sat at one very long table as a Company. We were in their world and they wanted to make us feel welcome and honored. Another sign that this is home. It was about now having this incredible extended family. His family, his Shipmate’s family and his Navy family! That attitude can only make his life in the Navy better. He gets it, USNA gets it and the Navy gets it!

Herndon was fun to watch, to see the entire class come together as a whole. Trust me they did not pay attention to the bleachers. It was all about the task at hand. 1 hour and 32 minute for the Class of 2010.

The pride that walked into Alumni Hall that afternoon, to get their youngster boards, in their choker whites, in front on the entire Brigade, the Class of 1960, and their families. You could see it on every face. And as parents we were so honored that we were able to put their youngster boards on them. Maybe as a grad that didn't have that experience it seems odd and unnecessary, but I can tell you my Plebe no More was honored to hand his mother those boards and give me the hug for encouraging him to live his dream.

USNA get that times have changed and family has to be important for these young people to thrive. They are including us and they are including the 50 year Alumni - both important family to these Mids. I hear all about "Tiger Cruises" in the fleet so this idea of family carries there too.

As an equal comparison most colleges are also getting that parental involvement helps their retention rates. There are now Parent Weekends, which include going to class with your student. At Georgia Tech there are special programs specifically for Freshmen parents hosted by the different colleges and schools. My other half, as a member of the faculty, when these programs started also thought why? One more thing; to have to deal with parents now. (yes he has been called!) Six years later and he looks forward to going to his colleges' reception for freshmen parents, finds having the parents attend his class somewhat amusing and sees the results of including the parents - retention is up, even attending classes is up. One of his students has a sibling who graduates this Friday from USNA - we have met the family, they have met our Mid too - the world really is a small place. All because family is now included!

Just this Moms perspective.