A Note to My Critics

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The blog entry I posted yesterday, The Odd Things Citadel Parents Learn is now the most viewed entry this year and the top post since starting this blog in 2011 after my son graduated. Apparently it struck a chord with parents and alumni, but for different reasons.

The current parents tell me they can relate to everything I’ve written. The few alumni I’ve heard from directly say they can relate as well. They understand, because they know me, that I was poking fun at the strange things parents of cadets learn.

I can understand why the alumni wonder why parents know about shoes, T-pins, sheets etc. Unless they have a cadet who has attended since the barracks have air conditioning and all cadets are required to have a computer and encouraged to have a cell phone, they just won’t understand what it is like for current families.

Prior to the early 2000’s electronic communications had not been a big part of our lives. Now to stay competitive in the job market a cadet must know how to use a computer and other devices. Prior to 2000 college life was different for everyone. Few people had laptops and we weren’t used to being electronically connected to the world.

Skype, Facetime and other means of communication weren’t around either. While an argument can be made that the knobs should have limited access to communication, the fact remains that post Virginia Tech tragedy campuses around the country had to institute communication plans with the students. The Citadel now encourages knobs to have cell phones. They can’t use them whenever they want but they do have them.

For readers new to my blog I encourage you to read through the blog posts linked below. You’ll find I repeat over and again that parents must learn to let go and allow their sons and daughters to take ownership of their successes and failures. Once Matriculation Day arrives and parents ask what they can do about this or that on campus, my usual response begins, “you don’t need to do anything, that is up to your son/daughter . . . ”

My son, a 2011 graduate, never told me anything at all about his experience. I have over the years heard stories from others. I did buy most of the items on the Success Packet List and the Nice to Have List. It was my high school graduation gift to him. I don’t know many cadets who have the money to spend, about $1,000 on shoes ($100+ a pair), boots (close to $150 a pair) athletic shoes (close to $100 a pair), and the other required items. I learned a lot about what they needed and how to save money, i.e. cheap sheets, good socks for instance. I pass that information on to others just as local parents shared with me their recommendations.

Stories of washing machines and dryers at home getting clogged by T-pins that were left in sheets at the end of the school year have led them to be referred to as “minions of satan” by a number of parents. (hat tip to my friend Mandy) Many would prefer their cadets use the straps to hold the sheets in place.

My son never told me about the sink or much else for that matter. He did, however, tell my younger son, who told me. When visiting for parents weekend my son’s knob year in 2007, my younger son said, “You didn’t touch the sink did you?!” When I said no and asked why would he ask, my younger son told what the knobs use it for. (he’s never been good at keeping a secret)

I am the chair of the Atlanta Citadel Club’s new Parent Committee. As such, I felt I needed to alert the club about what is being said by alumni about my recent blog post. I received this encouraging note in return:

At these times, I always lean towards my favorite quote about “critics” from Teddy Roosevelt:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man (or woman!) who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I’ve heard through the alumni grapevine that many of them don’t understand why parents know about any of the things I write about. If you are an alumnus who feels I am a “Helicopter Parent” I invite you to email me to discuss your concerns. I much prefer a civil dialogue than hearing second-hand about comments made about me and my experience with my family by people I’ve never met. I encourage you to read the blog post below to get a background on why I started this blog and the  parent Facebook groups **see below

Previous blog posts about letting go:

The Citadel: Year One a No Fly Zone for Hovering Parents

Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel

A Letter to The Citadel Class of 2015

Matriculation Day: The Hardest Part for Parents is Letting Go

Transitions and Letting Go

Advantages of being the Parent of a Citadel Cadet

Preparing for Knob Year – Parents Edition

Uniformity, Lists, and Letting Go

**If you want to know why I started this blog, see this entry:

The Story of My Nontraditional Calling

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photo by Stanley Leary

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