It’s funny how I never really plan long summer road trips. They just happen. One year my spontaneous road trip included 15 people, 3 vehicles, an alligator farm, and 3 broken down vehicles. This past week I went on another memorable road trip. This time it was bitter sweet. The first part of the trip was to Charleston, SC to drop my son off for summer school at the Citadel.
Adam drove his truck and I drove by myself in my car. Superman and Thomas were going to meet us when they finished their Boy Scout summer high adventure camp. We joined the thousands of other families going to the beach. Being alone in the car for 3 1/2 hours gave me lots of time to think about what was about to happen to my family. Another child is going away to college.
Luckily, the two of them will be in Charleston together. Mary Claire attends the College of Charleston and Adam will be two miles away at the Citadel. For 21 years, being a stay-at-home mom has been my job. Now I will just have Thomas keeping me busy. I wonder whether I’ve done all I could for Adam. I know he’s smart enough, athletic enough and has the integrity to be successful if he chooses. He also has the potential to choose not to. I have to believe that all the prayers, laughter, discipline, hard work and love will pay off. We’ve done all could when we were together and now it is his time to shine.
If you are not familiar with the Citadel, it is the military college of South Carolina. A fourth class system is implemented, where incoming freshmen or knobs, as they are fondly called, are “broken down” and built back up together. It doesn’t matter if you were the star quarterback of the football team or the smartest kid in the graduating class, when you walk through the gates you are all equal. It’s hard. I think especially if you are an 18 year old guy who, of course, already knows everything back home, then suddenly is having his head shaved, bracing at attention, quick stepping to class in the gutter and serving upperclassmen at meals.
So here we go, dropping Adam off for C.S.I.- Citadel Success Institute. This is a 4 week intensive summer school program, where the kids are getting a little taste of cadet life. There is no fourth class system or uniforms involved, but attention to small details like buttons buttoned, shirts ironed, faces shaven, socks to correct height are begun. As Adam stepped up to sign-in, the cadet behind the desk quickly informed him that “Yes M’am and Yes Sir were to be used from now on.” Other CSI students were told to tuck in their shirts, take off the sun glasses and to remove their hat. C.S.I. is a voluntary four weeks of preparing academically, physically and mentally for the fall.
One of the biggest things you can do to make it through your knob year is to become invisible. Do everything you are suppose to do, do them well, but don’t give the upperclassmen any reason to single you out. Take for example when we were buying the required two white towels. Remember, Superman is a 1986 graduate of the Citadel, so he knows how to successfully negotiate the fourth class system. Although the big fluffy towels would be awesome to have, don’t do it! Something as simple as that fluffy towel could bring attention to you. Buy the plain, middle of the road towel to keep you invisible.
Luckily, this is only summer school, so there is a little bit more leeway in making mistakes. As we were about to go up to Adam’s room, he asked if we knew what his room number was. “Nope. Sorry Buddy.” First mistake. Oops! Now he had to humble himself and ask the cadet instructor for his room assignment again. Nothing happened, but the cadet asked for his name twice and gave him a funny look. Humbleness can be a good thing. I bet he’ll pay better attention next time.
Knowing how nervous he was about this new life adventure, we tried very hard to help make it an easy transition for him. It was nice that we were able to move him in before his roommate arrived. It gave us a chance to move around, cut up and talk about things.
I just sat on the bed and watched him unload his things. It really didn’t matter how he did it, because the cadet instructors would tell him exactly how to fold and hang up his clothes. But as his momma, I wanted to jump in and unpack for him. I have to let go. It is so important for me to step back and let him take the reins.
This will be his home for the next four years. Unfortunately (or fortunately in which way you may want to look at it), his roommate did not last a day. He went home complaining of a stomach ache. Told Adam he’d see him in the fall. Nope, he won’t ever see him again. Luckily the kid figured out real quick that this was not the place for him.
I am so proud of Adam! I know that this school is the best fit for him. Not every kid should go here. It takes a special attitude and determination to make it four years. In the end, it will be worth it. The strongest, life long friendships will be made here. The alumni network almost guarantees graduates a job. But most importantly, I know that it produces men and women of honor, duty and respect.