I made it to another Matriculation Day at The Citadel, my 6th, 5th as a volunteer. Like most visits to the school it was a busy weekend. My tradition is to stop by Mark Clark Hall when I arrive in Charleston. I began to meet incoming families right away. The Gift Shop tends to be a place where all the new families visit when they come to campus.
One thing I didn’t realize before going to campus was the impact posting this blog would have on a broader audience. After my son’s graduation I decided to post the basic information I gave to the Georgia families each year during our orientation for new families. What I discovered this weekend is that I should never underestimate the research prowess of anxious parents! The advice I’ve been sharing with Georgia families is now online and available for anyone who searches the web for information on The Citadel. The end result was that this past weekend people I had never met called me by name to say hello.
The whole experience was a bit surreal. I’m an extrovert so meeting all the new families was really fun, but it just felt a bit strange and rewarding to know that my little blog actually reached the intended audience and helped a few people.
Volunteering during Matriculation Day and being the administrator of the Facebook group for parents of the class of 2016 is a good distraction for me right now too. My son will be deployed sometime later this year. Helping others is a great way to forget about your own anxieties.
I purchased a “Big Red” flag for my son and had his graduation year added. The alumni like to get their photo taken with the flag where ever they are stationed. Once I had the flag, a friend of my son held it by the company letter so I could send the photo to him as well.
This first week for new knobs is tough on them, but judging by the posts of new parents I know it is hard on them too. In 2011 I wrote a blog entry for the blog site Off the Base titled, The Citadel: Year One A No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents. Most of what I wrote in 2011 still applies today.
There are a few other tips I’ll pass along to the new parents about this first year:
Each Cadet is different: Remember, each knob and each cadet will have their own a unique experience. During the first year the knobs learn to work together. BUT if you are friends with the family of an upperclassman, take their advice with a grain of salt no two cadets have the same experience. Each year the cadre change the companies each have their own traditions so no two years are the same and no two cadets have identical experiences.
That goes for my suggestions as well. I don’t have all the right answers. Much of this whole process is up to the individual cadet. Each family has to make their own decisions on how to proceed with mail, visits, etc.
Learn the citadel.edu web site: I posted a page called Helpful Web Links to this blog to help make it easier to find the sites viewed most by parents. It includes links to: the photo site that is updated just about daily this week; the Office the Commandant page, where you can find the Training schedules for each and every week and the PowerPoint Presentations the cadets will sit through; and many others. The A-Z Site map and the regular search window on the upper right side of the home page are great tools to find the information you are looking for about the school.
Regarding Facebook: I know you miss your child. I was one of the parents trolling the photo website during Hell Week hoping for a glimpse of my knob too. Now that Facebook is such a big part of the social media scene, new parents should use restraint when posting to public sites like The Citadel External Affairs page and other Citadel related Facebook groups. They post great photos and information. You should join the page and keep an eye on it, but if you see your knob, don’t post comments. A knob wants to fly under the radar. If a parent starts gushing about their child on the public page it invites unwanted attention to the knob. The cadets and alumni are also part of the public pages. When you see a photo you like download it and repost it to your own Facebook page so your friends can see the photo and comment. Do join the page just for 2016 parents, Only new parents and a few parents of graduates are on the page.
Questions/Concerns: Email and call your CFA company or battalion rep. If you are part of the Facebook group for new parents you can private message one of the parents of a graduate on the site. If it is a questions about policy of the school, call the Ombudsperson’s office they are available 24/7. They are a great first stop and will keep your call confidential if you’d like.
Phone calls/Email/Texts: The knobs will get their phones and computer access early next week. It can vary by company when they get the privileges back so don’t panic if you hear someone has heard from their cadet and you haven’t. They will not be able to answer the phone/email or text at will. If they do call and the call drops suddenly it is not a bad connection, don’t call them back. It most likely means a member of the cadre walked in the room and they had to hang up. Keep your calls encouraging. You may end up being the one person they complain to. Realize that most knobs will dump their frustrations to their family members leaving them to worry. They rarely let you know a situation has resolved. You are left to worry and they are dealing with whatever it was they complained about.
Mail/Food: They will get to go to their mail boxes when classes begin. Send positive, fun cards and letters. Small boxes of a food are always appreciated. The school has the US Postal Service send small flat rate boxes and labels to you. You can also get them for free at your local post office. TIP: The Priority Mail box #1096L is larger and still fits in their mail box. stuff it with protein snacks or whatever, THEN put it in a flat rate mailing envelope to save on postage.
Visits after Hell Week: The first time knobs can go off campus is most likely August 26. They may have up to 7 hours I say may because the leave is a privilege that can be revoked. This first day off campus is a terrific time for the knobs to bond off campus with their classmates. Most walk to town for a decent meal without the cadre present. Future weekends you can make plans to visit if that is what your family decides they want to do. As with everything else this year allow your knob to call the shots. They will let you know if a visit would help or if they want to spend time with their new classmates. You can send a gift card to the fast food places around campus, like Burger King, McDonald’s, and Hardee’s, or to the restaurants in town like Sticky Fingers, Moe’s and other casual restaurants.
Girlfriends: There is a Facebook group for girl friends of cadets. Request to join the closed group to meet other girlfriends by clicking this link. I haven’t found one for boyfriends.
Looking forward to Parents Weekend: The schedule is usually posted to the main website a few weeks prior to the weekend. It hasn’t changed much over the years, but do check it to see if they decided to change ties of the events from previous year. If you can, try to get to campus before 12 noon on Friday. The knobs have lunch with their senior mentors then they line to road in front of the barracks to cheer the graduating class as they march to the field house to receive their rings. It is fun to watch as the knobs chant the graduating class on. There is an academic open house and the knobs can usually leave with their families in the afternoon. The seniors get their rings then dash out of the field house and into their barracks to celebrate. They usually want the knobs to be out of the barracks before the seniors come in.
The Friday of Parents Weekend is HUGE deal for the seniors. They have waited three years to earn the right to wear THE ring. They receive them Friday afternoon and Friday night is the Ring presentation and Ring Hop. Knobs don’t attend the dance, but if you are on campus in the evening it is fun to see everyone dressed up. It is something to do sophomore and junior year when your cadet might be out with their buddies. My daughter and I picked up some ice cream and sat near the field house watching the mother’s and girlfriends walk by in their beautiful gowns.
See the few photo albums I have from my weekend at The Citadel here: