When my daughter, Bethany was 4 years old, we called her “Bunny” because she hopped from heart to heart. She loved to play with her little girlfriends and one afternoon she spent the entire afternoon with Amanda. She was a little girl who felt life deeply and could go from being on top of the world to the depths of despair in nanoseconds.
When I picked her up from her friend’s she bounced to the car and chatted all the way home. We walked in the door and I asked her how Amanda’s older sister was doing. Suddenly, she began to sob, uncontrollably.
“What’s wrong, Bunny?” I handed her a Kleenex.
“I don’t want to leave you, Mama!” she wailed.
“Why would you think you have to leave?” I was really confused.
She looked at me through her tears, “To go to COLLEGE.”
Apparently Amanda’s older sister was preparing to move to go to college and Bethany couldn’t imagine a day when she would have to leave her Papa and myself to go to school. The good news is that fourteen years later, she was a little bit more prepared when she moved from California to Chicago to go to college. She got a B.A. in Communications, with an emphasis in Electronic Media and was in her element.
Today, Bethany and I host The Money Millhousepodcast and still get just as emotional, on occasion, while putting her college degree to good use. We made a point of preparing Bunny and all the Kay kids for college, long before they went to Freshman orientation. Three of the Kay kids went to service academies, which meant they only had less than a month at home after high school graduation.
Whether you are prepping kids to go to a civilian university or whether they are going a service academy like three of our sons (USMA, USAFA, USNA) here’s some “homework” in the form of five do’s and don’ts to make a smooth move.
- Don’t – Fill up free time with friends at the expense of family.
- Friends come and go but family is forever.
- Only a small percentage of your friends from high school will still be your BFFs throughout college. Less than 2% of boyfriend/girlfriend relationships will last until college graduation.
Do – Tell your mama (and papa) that you love them early and often.
- Mend fences and build bridges with family members.
- Expect there to be some pre-separation anxiety on both sides (parents and kids) so give each other a lot of grace.
- Students, please understand that this is hard on your parents, especially if you are moving away to go to school.
- Parents, understand that this is hard on your kid because they are about to go do something they’ve never done before. For those going to service academies, it’s going to be big and scary and you won’t be there.
- Students, take the time to thank your parents, grandparents, friends, educators and coaches.
- Don’t – Take a break from physical fitness, especially if attending a Service Academy.
- My husband, Bob, and our son, Jonathan, went to The Air Force Academy and they used to say that “The Air Force Academy is at an altitude of 7258 feet—far far above Annapolis or West Point.” That’s why physical fitness was important.
- If you’re going to a service academy, you’re going to take a Physical Fitness Test as soon as you get there.
- Engage in risky behavior, now is not the time to push the limits legally or physically. Don’t take up space jumping or quad racing because a broken limb could cost an appointee their service academy appointment.
Do – Continue to workout and make wise choices.
- Physical fitness is a healthy way to cope with pressure in college.
- Even if you go on a family vacation or have a lot of things to do.
- For service academy appointees, run 3 miles 3-4 times a week and then do 50 pushups and 50 sit ups every day.
- Don’t – Make this all about you.
- Parents, don’t create drama before they go or after they’ve gone.
- Moms, don’t sob and cry and tell them you don’t’ know how you’re going to survive without them. Shedding a few tears is OK, but doing what Oprah calls “the ugly cry” isn’t all right.
- Parental, sibling or significant other drama is a distraction to the service academy appointee going through basic cadet training or “beast.” Distractions can lead to accidents and accidents can lead to a turn back (meaning they have to go home.)
- Don’t post a bunch of “poor me-isms” on social media
Do – Keep it positive.
- Right now, service academy portals will have a mailing address for the student. Give this address to friends and family and with your network because cards and letters mean everything during basic training. “Basics” aren’t allowed access to computers, phones or social media.
- Do send simple cards and letters – no perfume on the cards, no kissy marks on the envelopes, no care packages during beast, and no food. After beast is over, you can send these.
- Do tell your student funny stories about a younger sibling or the dog.
- Do send pictures of the dog or pet.
- Do keep it light and not heavy.Students, do make your social media channels private or have them go dormant.
- Do clean up these channels because you never know what the cadre will get ahold of and you don’t want to embarrass yourself or become a targ
- Don’t –Be Han Solo – you don’t have to do this alone.
- My husband’s advice to our sons for basic cadet training was. “Keep your mouth shut and help your classmates.”
- Don’t stand out as the first, the most knowledgeable or the best or worst
- For parents, don’t go this journey alone, join a parents club or booster club.
- Remember, parents, sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know.
Do – Be a team player.
- Look for ways you can help others get through Beast.
- The friendships you make in BCT and college will last a lifetime. My husband, Bob and I just had dinner with a classmate of USAFA class of l978.
- Do take advantage of the sponsor family program, a program that allows local families to “adopt” a cadet or midshipman.Some of these friendships may become like a second family—or at least get you to the airport.
- Parents, do join a parents clubfor your respective service academy. Your civilian friends don’t get it, other service academy parents do understand the unique situation your family faces.
- Don’t – Ever forget the “why” of what this education and your career means.
- Service Academy Appointees are choosing something hard, something their civilian friends will never understand, but there’s a big “why.” They want to serve their country as officers.
- During BCT and during your 4 years there, you’ll have to sometimes take life a meal at a time, a day at a time.
- Parents, don’t forget that being a good parent means you let them fly and you support their choice to serve. You don’t have to like it or feel good about what those choices may include.
- Parents, DON’T borrow tomorrow’s trouble. While they are there, they are safe, they are not deployed, they are not in harm’s way. Today has enough challenges of its own without borrowing on tomorrow. As long as they are in training, they aren’t in combat. If and when that day happens, you’ll have the strength you need to cope. We know this, having had one son serve in a combat zone in both Afghanistan and Iraq.
- Appointees, remember your goals in getting through BCT and the academy—to fly, to serve, to go into cyber security or intel, or missles or space. Your goal is much bigger than BCT and that’s why you’ll get through.
Do – Remember the Legacy
- You are part of a long line of military service.
- Think about the parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts or uncles who have ever served. You are part of that legacy.
- Your legacy keeps American free.
- Putting on a uniform doesn’t make someone a hero, but those who put on that uniform and serve with integrity first, service before self and excellence in all they do—that’s pretty heroic.
- There’s another kind of hero as well, the Heroes at Homeand those are the parents, siblings, grandparents and family members of those who serve. America thanks you as well.
“It starts and ends with character, and it’s a journey, not a destination. Leadership is a gift, and it is given to us by those who follow.”
General David Goldfein
Air Force Chief of Staff