Last night my husband and I attended the Atlanta Opera’s presentation of Rigoletto. It is not normally a topic I would write about on a blog mainly dedicated to helpful information for parents of Citadel cadets. But this opera actually has a tie to El Cid, the person cast as Sparafucile, Morris Robinson, is a 1991 graduate of The Citadel! (see this video of Morris talking about his time at The Citadel then becoming an opera singer)
Due to a really fun turn of events we not only attended the opera, but my husband and I went backstage afterward and met Morris after years of following him online. We also met a few other cast members.
2015 marks the 4th year that I have posted and will moderate a group for new parents of incoming knobs at The Citadel. The group for parents of the Class of 2019 has over 30 members already.
The original intent of these groups still stands, to offer parent to parent advice to incoming parents of knobs. Attending a senior military college is a strange process for parents with no military background like me. The Facebook groups are an easy way to get general information out to fellow parents.
The Facebook groups for the individual classes of parents were started by me, and are supported by a few select friends who each bring a unique perspective as a parent of a graduate. I started with the 2016 class. There are now groups for the classes of 2016, 2017, 2018 and now 2019. I am no longer the administrator for the 2016 and 2017 groups. members of the class are moderating those groups now. By this summer I’ll pass on the reigns to the 2018 group to a couple of parent members. I also administer the Military Parents of The Citadel group.
The Citadel is a military school and a leadership school. That means that the cadets are expected to learn to advocate for themselves. In this environment more so than nonmilitary schools, the students are expected to take ownership in their process. Social media can be a blessing and a curse for the parents and the cadets.
With the advent of social media like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and others, we’ve become accustomed to instant information. Skype, Facetime, and smart phones are wonderful tools to stay in touch. In years past when the knobs had a bad day, or hour, they had days before they could vent to family and friends. By the time they did get to phone the problem had worked itself out. The rules have changed over the years and knobs are expected to carry cell phones with them now. This change happened out of an interest in increasing security. All across the country after the Virginia Tech tragedy campuses changed how they handled security.
2007 was the last year knobs were not allowed to have cell phones first semester. That is the year my son was a knob. The knobs did have access to email and Skype. The difference I’ve seen in the knobs and parents now versus eight years ago is that with instant communications the parents worry more, not less. The knobs can now text their frustrations to parents in real-time. The big problem is they rarely let their parents know when a problem has been resolved leaving the parent to worry. With the increase in connectivity some parents get overly involved with their cadet’s experience at the school.
I am not advocating no communication. I am telling new parents that it is important for them to remember not to join the knobs on their emotional roller coaster. They will need a loving ear to vent to once in a while, but will also need their parents to serve as a rock to help them stay the course when it gets tough.
Each knob is different, and will process the experiences differently. Each year during the first “challenge week” formally known as “hell week” knobs leave, but far more stay than go. It is a tough time for the knobs and their parents. I do remind parents that knobs are at a college, not going to war. It is a very tough system. The knobs are yelled at throughout the year. They are not given encouragement and must find the strength internally to deal with the 4th class system. There is no universal experience there, but everyone who has gone through four years at The Citadel will tell you it was tough.
The school offers several resources for cadets and parents if they have questions or encounter problems on campus. While I encourage parents to let their knob or cadet handle their problems with minimal intervention, I also tell them that they know their child and if they have a concern to address it with the appropriate person on campus. The Ombudsperson’s office is a good place to start if you are not sure to which person or office to direct your question.
A big mistake parents of all classes of cadets make each year is posting too much information to the parent Facebook groups. While each group encourages members to keep the information shared to the group private, the fact is, some groups have hundreds of members. There is no way to keep members from sharing information with their cadet, a spouse, and others.
The best rule of thumb is not to share specific information about your cadet to any group. It is also not a good idea to air grievances to any group. You never know who will see your post. There is the very real potential that what you post to a group will reflect poorly on your cadet on campus. It should not happen, but every year it does. I post a warning to the groups I administer each year not to post specific information about your cadet, even a prayer request about your cadet because they are sick. Each year someone over shares and there is negative repercussions for the parent and/or their cadet.
If you have a grievance with the school send a note to the appropriate department on campus. If you need to vent about a situation send a private message to a friend or a group of trusted friends.