The shock and awe of I Day are in the rearview mirror. The Basics are, well, learning the basics from the cadre, and the rest of the Cadet Wing is scattered to the Four Winds. A few random thoughts as we hurtle through summer…
If you have a Basic, take a deep breath. There’s probably a lot racing through your mind right now but if we’re being honest, there’s not a whole lot you can do about any of it. There are two things I would offer in terms of advice: 1) Don’t compare and 2) Do whatever makes you most comfortable.
In our world dominated by the constant sharing on social media, it’s difficult not to compare. People are going on better vacations than me, certainly driving nicer cars, living in more beautiful houses, and eating more sumptuous meals. The same holds true for military academy parents. It’s inevitable – there are some parents who share a bunch of photos from Webguy showing their DD/DS smiling and that every letter is filled with how much they are loving it and every call is a reinforcement of “I know I’m in the right place.” Maybe that’s you. If so, enjoy, and don’t stop sharing, we all need positive reinforcement.
But if every picture you find of your Basic shows a grim or distressed look, if every letter reads like the backstory to an emo song, and if every phone call ends with you contemplating a trip to Colorado Springs to bring your DD/DS home, don’t despair. BCT is intentionally designed to give these young adults more than they can handle and since most of them are high achievers, this may well be the first time they’ve found themselves unable to meet a standard. It’s all part of the process. You know, I worked in my father’s machine shop when I was a kid and we used to send some parts out for heat treatment. I asked him what that was all about. Basically, he said the metal was put under intense heat and pressure and that made it stronger. That’s the essence of BCT.
Both sets of parents described above are getting moments in time, not the entire picture. Every cadet will have good moments and bad. Some will have a disproportionate amount of bad ones. That’s just the way it goes. And if you are one of those parents getting depressing notes and calls, take another deep breath. Remember, your Basic doesn’t really have anyone else they can unload these feelings on. Their fellow Basics are all in the same situation and the cadre isn’t really there to be a shoulder to cry on. So maybe that’s your role for BCT, to be that shoulder, that ear, that soothing voice that says, “I’m sorry you’re going through this, but I love you and know you can make it.”
As a parent, you know how your role has changed over the years. This is just the latest iteration. And by the end of Doolie year, your role will change again. But for now, don’t let yourself be brought down by comparisons. Just understand your new role and do the best you can with it.
This brings us to the second item, do whatever makes you comfortable. I’ll be honest, about a week into my cadet’s BCT, I stopped scouring Webguy every day because the first handful of pictures I found were of my daughter running. Not only is she an awful runner, but she loathes it with the intensity of 10,000 white-hot suns and while in most cases she hides her emotions, when she runs, she wears the most painful look on her face. So after those first few pictures, I gave myself a break. When they got to Jacks Valley, I was back to scanning constantly, because I knew the obstacle courses would be more likely to find her without that painful look on her face. I was right.
So if you need to avoid Webguy for a while, don’t feel guilty. Maybe more importantly, if you need to step away from the parents’ pages on Facebook for a bit to avoid the aforementioned comparisons, that’s OK, too. Here’s the only thing I wouldn’t do – don’t isolate yourself.
The thing is, I learned all this firsthand during my son’s Plebe Summer at USNA six years ago. We had a horrific I Day experience and Plebe Summer was a series of grim letters and uneven phone calls along with a stream of other parents posting on Facebook about how awesome their kid was doing. But I happened across an experienced Mom whose kid had long since commissioned. We struck up a conversation off the pages and she listened patiently, offering comforting words and solid advice. I’m not sure I would have made it through that summer without that connection. So if you’re distressed by BCT, reach out and find your support system. It may be with other USAFA parents, but it could be your friends and neighbors or your pastor. Just don’t try to go through it alone. There are too many people who not only can help but are ready and willing to help.
Bottom line: Your experience is the right experience.
A few other thoughts:
- You look good in USAFA blue.
- The answer to the question, “how much Air Force stuff do you have?” will forever remain the same: “Not enough.”
- If you have friends who say you have gone overboard with the Air Force stuff, get new friends. You don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.
One final thought … while this may be a difficult time, embrace it. Even though it seems like the days are dragging on, you will hear people talk about how the time at USAFA flies by. They are right. Your time as an Air Force Academy parent is split into three blocks – BCT, Doolie academic year, and the final three years. By the time Parents Weekend arrives, you will be one-third of the way through your journey. Embrace it.
Oh, and hope to see you at Parents Weekend. I’ll be the one wearing Air Force blue. 😉