By Dom Cioffi
The month-long experiment is officially over. Four weeks ago, my wife and I dropped our teenage son off at military camp. The idea was to build some character and revisit his suffering study habits. The program promised to nudge young men toward adulthood using exercises that build pride and confidence.
My wife and I got up at 5 a.m. this past Sunday to make the several-hour drive to pick him up. We were both anxious and curious. Would he have changed? And if so, for better or worse?
It was easy to think he would come out on the better end of this experience, but we also knew that plenty of the kids in this program were there for disciplinary reasons. Would their bad habits or attitudes rub off on him?
We arrived at the campus and made our way to the large hall where the closing ceremony would take place. Other parents filtered in with the same looks of wonder on their faces. Before long, the cadets arrived and filed in to take seats on the opposite side of the hall.
I spotted my son at the same moment he spotted me. He smiled and I returned the look. It reminded me of a similar moment when we dropped him off 30 days earlier. As I said good-bye and made my way to the door on that day, I turned around and saw him staring at me. We gave each other a brief smile, but at that point, there was some sadness behind it.
The ceremony involved a few speeches and some award presentations before the cadets were released and sent to their dorm rooms to collect their belongings. The parents were given some final directions on wrapping things up and then were sent to find their sons.
When I found my son, he was carrying his trunk down the stairs with another cadet. They got to the bottom and set the trunk down and then the kid helping my son raised his hand to shake and said, “See ya, Cioffi. Great knowing ya.” My son returned the handshake and said goodbye.
I gave my boy a hug and pulled him in close, holding him a bit longer than he probably wanted to be held, but I didn’t care. I was ready to have my son back in my life and proud of him for surviving this test.
Before long, a few more boys walked by, each shaking hands with my son. And as we gathered up his gear and headed to the car, a couple more boys yelled, “Later, Cioffi!”
I took these recurring salutations as a good sign. My son had obviously made ample connections throughout the month. Of course, that’s never been my son’s issue. No matter where he goes or what he does, he has always made friends easily. Sure, like any kid he’s got his issues, but socializing has never been one of them.
We packed up the car and got on the road and immediately wanted to know everything. But as every parent of a teenage boy knows, they are painfully hard to squeeze information out of. We suffered through countless one-word answers before the frustration kicked in. Suddenly, it was like he never left.
I got a pit in my stomach and drew within myself, letting my mind race on the idea that this experiment may have been a huge waste of time and money.
I was about to say something when I glanced in the rearview mirror. In an instant, everything became clear. My son’s head was leaning back, his eyes were closed, and his mouth was wide open. The kid was exhausted.
We let him sleep the entire ride home. When we arrived at our house, which was mid-afternoon, he said he needed to go upstairs. After I unpacked a few things, I went up to find him. Not surprisingly, he was curled up in his bed fast asleep.
He slept for another hour before a neighborhood kid, who was pining for his return, showed up and asked him to go swimming. My son quickly gathered his stuff to head out, but then told his friend to wait while he went back upstairs. A few minutes later he returned covered in sunscreen.
While this doesn’t sound like a big deal, it was for my wife and me. The fact that he put on sunscreen without being told was mind-blowing for us. At that moment, I knew there was a change. It may have been minor, but it was a start.
This week’s film, “Mission: Impossible–Fallout,” is anything but minor. In fact, this big budget action thriller dealt with a very major issue: the annihilation of millions of people.
Starring Tom Cruise as the indomitable Ethan Hunt, “Fallout” delivers exactly what’s expected of this revered franchise – namely, jaw-dropping special effects wrapped up in an unending chase scene.
Check this one out if you’re a fan of the franchise. Just be prepared to pay attention while the convoluted storyline unfolds. It all wraps up in the end, but there’s a bit of confusion along the way.
A super-charged “B+” for “Mission: Impossible – Fallout.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him [email protected]