You Have No Idea Until You Go Through It
One year ago today, my husband and our two youngest sons watched as the most enormous wooden doors I’d ever seen slammed closed, shutting my oldest son and about 1199 other sons and daughters inside. My mind will never forget that sight or that sound, like a cannon going off in my heart. An appropriate likening, as we had officially turned our 17 year old son over to the United States Naval Academy.
We were already becoming very familiar with terms like “Embrace the Suck,” “Trust the Process,” and Semper Gumby (always flexible). In the coming weeks, we would live them and learn what they really meant to a USNA family.
There were some realizations that came to light rather quickly that I had not anticipated, and that tested this mom’s heart.
1 – My son was never going to live with me again. He then belonged at that moment to the US Navy and to you.
2 – We never really know what the process is that we’re supposed to trust. Much like faith, we know it’s there and we just trust that it all works the way it’s supposed to.
3 – Much like anything else, regardless of how prepared you think you are, you have no idea until you’re going through it.
One year ago today was the beginning of a seven week obsession, a full-time job, of Waldo hunting. I’ll explain:
Families are very blessed the USNA allows professional photographers to record for posterity the Plebe Summer of each class, and that we, the parents, get access to look for that face that’s now absent from our home. The face that, when last we saw it in person, was very deer-in-headlights shocked or full-out red-splotched and streaked with tears.
Those seven weeks are filled with daily letter-writing, checking the mailbox for letters home addressed in familiar handwriting, praying, pride, wonder, longing, living in Facebook parent groups to learn of any news or needs we should ship.
Finding ways to send them joy - a comic strip or joke, mundane stories about what's going on back home assuring them they aren't missing anything, funny stories about something stupid a sibling or parent did - anything to remind the muscles in their face what a smile feels like.
Counting down to the first of only two phone calls home, anxious beyond belief while also dreading what you’d been prepared to hear. And those parents weren’t wrong. It was the hardest phone call to date to be on the other side of. To hear your child in a raspy voice, barely audible from exhaustion and shouting, question every dream they’ve had and every effort they made that got them into the Naval Academy. To encourage them not to make permanent decisions on temporary feelings, and to just make it to the next meal … and then the next. And then to hang up, and pray you said all the right things and listened enough.
Over those weeks, a parent also witnesses an incredible transformation; and you realize that the boy or girl you dropped off is becoming your hero right before your eyes through each photo you find. And it takes your breath away … knowing that you raised your hero.
TODAY, about 1200 other families are beginning the exact same process as the Class of 2026 enters their Plebe Summer. They’ve been given so many words of wisdom, told the phrases that will become central to their vocabulary, and offered so much guidance and support from those who’ve been there. And just like us, and all who’ve been there, they have no idea until they go through it.
As we head into the most patriotic of our American holidays, the Fourth of July, please pray for these families and all families who make the sacrifices for the ultimate service to God and Country. To you and to me. These are all America’s sons and daughters.
Create joy every moment you get!