Matriculation Day for The Citadel Class of 2019 is just over a week away. So far there are close to 330 parents of entering knobs in the Facebook group The Citadel: Parents of the Class of 2019. I can tell by the questions I am getting both online and in my email inbox that nerves are running pretty high for many parents. I was there in 2007 and totally understand. We are not a military family and no one in our family ever attended The Citadel so the experience was completely foreign.
After eight years of volunteering to support new parents I have learned a few things that to help new parents. While the next year will be a real rollercoaster of emotions for the class of 2019, the parents should resist to get on the ride with their student. If your student has decided to enter The Citadel, they most likely have a good idea of what they are signing up for this year.
As I mentioned in the blog post, Learning Leadership and Ethics at The Citadel, the process helps these young men and women learn how to take ownership for their actions. You can read more about the leadership training the cadets are exposed to on the page for the Krause Center for Leadership & Ethics and also the page of the Office of the Assistant Commandant for Leadership Programs.
Reading the school website and learning about what your student will go through is one way to ease the “scariness” of sending a child to a military school. Like most things we aren’t familiar with, the more you learn about the process the less intimidating it will be. I also recommend that parents who are not familiar with The Citadel or knob year read the book by Nancy Mace, In the Company of Men. It is a good read and gives an overview of cadet life and insights into the traditions of the school. Sword Drill by David Epps is a novel that also helps you learn about the process cadets go through. These are both books I’d recommend reading first semester. You’ll learn about the school and it will take your mind off of missing your son or daughter.
The first few months are the toughest because of all the adjustments the cadet recruits will go through. Once they get their phones and computer access back you’ll begin to hear stories. Many of them can be quite funny. Your cadet recruit will need you to be their sounding board. Because they have no rank or status in the Corps of Cadets they will use their parents and friends off campus to vent to about knob life. Listen, be empathetic, but realize they need to blow off steam. Most likely after they talk to you, whatever they were upset about will be worked out and they will have moved on while you are still worried.
If they are having trouble in class or with the system talk them through ways in which to solve whatever problem they have. They have a cadet chain of command to report to and they have confidential staff resources available which can be found on the page called H.E.L.P. Whenever possible it is best for the knob to work out their problems on their own. If at any time as a parent you have concerns about your son or daughter, you can also contact the Ombudspersons on campus. Capt. Paluso addressed the Atlanta Citadel Club in June and told the 2019 parents in attendance that if they have any concerns about their child’s experience they should contact the TAC officer or him. Many parents of cadets and graduates will offer advice based on their experience, but since the school changes each year it is always best to trust your parental instincts and contact the staff person who can address your concerns. I encourage all parents of cadets and graduates to listen to the address Capt. Paluso gave in June. It is a long talk and Q & A session but you don’t have to watch the video, just listen.
Encourage your cadet recruit to keep their priorities straight. Each year the knobs get so caught up with the military aspect of things they burn the candle at both ends. They go to class during the day, study then stay up late shining shoes and brass. That is not a sustainable plan. They need to prioritize studying and sleep and fit in the polishing in short spurts throughout the week and on the weekends. The Citadel is a COLLEGE first. No one failed out because their shoes weren’t shiny enough, but they have for getting poor grades. They need to get sleep to be able the handle their very busy schedule.
Getting back to phone calls and knob year. While they will have their phones back a week after they report, knobs cannot just call and text at will. There will be times when you are on the phone with them and they have to hang up. Do not get upset and do not call them back. Most likely it means an upperclass cadet just came into their room.
If your son or daughter have a boyfriend or girlfriend, they too need to understand this. Relationships are tough to keep up knob year. It takes a very understanding significant other to understand this year isn’t about them. Many, many, relationships from high school break up this first year. Just one more tough part of being a knob. Parents, your job in these situations is to help your son or daughter see the big long term picture, getting their diploma, graduating, and starting their career. It can be tough to see the big picture knob year when you are kept in the dark about most things on campus.
A great way to help the knobs this first year is sending care packages. The knobs love getting them and it gives parents something positive to focus on. It can get pricey though. Another Citadel mom wrote a blog post with tips on saving money when you send a package. See the link to her post HERE. The campus post office staff is also very helpful. If you live close to campus you can drop things off at the post office to be put in their box. The post office contact information can be found HERE. They also have some tips on the Matriculation Headquarters page in their letter. The USPS box 1096L fits nicely into their mail box. It is also the size of a book and fits into their knobbie bag. You can order them for free through the USPS web site and they will be delivered to your home.
During this first year, parents, you will need to find your own support network. Many parents have friends who are the parents of upperclass cadets. They can be a tremendous source of support. The Citadel Family Association (CFA) is a group made up of parents of current cadets. There are representatives for each company, battalion and many areas of the country. These volunteers can also be a great source of support and information. The CFA volunteers also are on campus for matriculation day to help the families move their knob’s things into the barracks and answer questions. Look for the people dressed in blue shirts. After this first year you can volunteer to help too.
This year will be a rollercoaster for your knob, but if you employ a few of the tips above you should get through it without too many ups and downs.