This weekend I was reunited with my daughter Bethany after dropping her off at West Point six weeks ago. She had just finished a long summer of grueling basic training known as “Beast Barracks.” Communication during this time period consisted of four phone calls (most very short) and old-fashioned letters. My post T-6 Days explains a bit what Beast is like for cadets.
We were very interested to see what West Point had been able to do with Bethany as she wasn’t exactly “cadet material” when she left. Good Luck, West Point is a post I wrote expressing my concerns that the United States Military Academy would be able to do anything with my disorganized, gun hating, total slob of a daughter. Bethany is very smart, athletic and motivated; she just lacked any discipline which I thought might be a problem at West Point.
Fast forward six weeks…total transformation. It was like a before/after on a reality TV show. Our family pretty much observed Bethany with jaws dropped for most of the weekend. Hats off to you, West Point! Can I send my husband through again??
The new Bethany is:
Bee was polite enough before, but her manners are impeccable now. As we were driving Bethy back to West Point on Sunday, she gave the family a long and heartfelt thank you for driving up to see her. She explained how she knew how we were all very busy and that it meant a lot to her that we were there. Her table manners were also flawless thanks to the etiquette training all cadets received.
To the extreme!! This was a bit stressful to me because she would say things like: “We’re leaving in 4 minutes.” or “We’re off schedule now by 20 minutes.” This was weird for me because Bethy was the one person I could always count on in the family to support my relaxed nature about timelines. Now I’m all alone.
Bethany doesn’t like to waste time anymore. This goes hand in hand with the punctuality and the need to keep to a schedule. Standing around chit-chatting or checking out the scenery? Nope, we need to be moving on to our next destination. No time for photos! Put that camera away, Mom.
Comfortable with weapons:
Bethy went into West Point hating guns, weapons, etc. In fact, she had a long conversation with my brother about the evils of guns and how she would never touch one or want to talk to people who did a week before leaving for USMA. He told her that maybe she had picked the wrong school. Bee replied that she would simply avoid this part of the Academy whenever she could. A little deluded, perhaps? Shooting her machine gun was difficult at first because it “freaked her out” and when she got to the range all of the training would drop out of her head. However, with time, she became more proficient and now likes it. A favorite line from one letter: Throwing grenades is so much fun! In the same letter she went through all of the weapons that they were learning about and what was awesome or amazing about each one.
This is probably the most unbelievable, most extreme change. It is hard to emphasize the degree to which Bethy lived in a total chaotic disaster area and just flat out didn’t care. Now, she takes PRIDE in having a shipshape room that passes inspection, preferably on the first time. Hospital corners? Not a problem. She is a pro and helps other people make their beds because she’s so good at it. Bethy is also a cleaning supplies connoisseur now. So weird!! When we were in Target we spent quite a while browsing the home aisles for the best duster, broom, magic erasers, etc. This was fun for her. West Point, you did what I couldn’t do. Well done.
At 7am on Sunday morning, Bethany presented me with a detailed hour-by-hour schedule of the day. Say what?? Has anyone seen my chilled out, go with the flow daughter?? This is the girl who refused to ever use a planner in high school, even her senior year when she was taking 6 AP courses. It was truly a shocking moment for me. Bethany told me she makes a schedule everyday because it keeps her focused and ensures that she gets everything accomplished each day. It was also suggested that maybe I should try this technique.
Motivated and focused:
Bethany has always been motivated, it is just super amped now. Maintaining focus over the long term has typically been more challenging because she never planned or had the discipline to follow through. Bee has set multiple goals for herself and has laid out plans to ensure success. One very small example was that Bethany wanted to make sure she was 100% ready for her first day of classes on Monday so she cut her visit with us short by 4 hours. This allowed her to get her computer and iPad set up, find the location of her classes, complete any reading she had to do, catch up on email, and prepare her uniform. One of her goals is to excel academically so it was important for her to start off on the right foot.
This one I attribute to the stress of being a plebe and going through Beast Barracks for 6 weeks. Conversations with Bethany always had a point, no idle chit chat or joking around. Her older sister said that she now felt like the younger sister and that Bethany might (and could) discipline her at any moment!
The uniform always has to be just right. Bethany is constantly fiddling with it and making sure that everything looks perfect. Ironing is now a hobby and she takes pride in those crisp creases! Bethany used to buy most of her clothes in thrift shops and enjoyed looking a bit raggedy and boho.
Bethy had this before, but even more so now. Things that bothered her previously don’t seem to have any effect on her anymore. When her sisters bickered in the car or teased/mocked her, she just rolled with it and it was clear that it had zero impact on her. On one particularly arduous road march, cadets had to take a knee (with their 60 lb. rucks still on their backs) and when it was time to stand, Bethany fell on her back and couldn’t get up because her legs were shaking from exhaustion. Four people had to lift her to her feet. She said it was embarrassing, but no big deal really. Everyone had his or her highs and lows and you just dealt with it. On her face, you just see an expression now that says, “I’ve dealt with things. I can handle myself and whatever life has in store for me.” We were all pretty impressed.
I’m not sure if other families found this many changes in their new cadet, but Bethany’s transformation was quite dramatic. All of us couldn’t be more proud of her and all that she has gone through and accomplished in six short weeks.