Heads Up

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A message from Tom Babits, head, Primary division

Tom BabitsSometimes our kids can throw our own words back at us in a way that can teach us our own lessons.

We just finished a time of try-outs and cuts and lists on walls. At the Prep, we talk to the boys individually after the final cuts are made. I do remember though, what it feels like to be a young man at high school, huddled around others looking for my name on a list. I remember what it feels like to be on the list, and I also remember what it feels like when your name isn’t there. Here is a true story from this week:

A good friend of mine, lets call him Dave, has a son, Sam, at the Upper School. He and I have talked numerous times about parenting issues and philosophy. He is one of these guys who believes his son should learn to manage on his own, learning through both success and even more importantly, failure. Given a caring environment, this is a philosophy I’m known to espouse from time to time, as I did at last week’s information evening. Well, a couple of nights ago Dave called me to relate this story about what had just occurred in his family.

Sam very much wanted to make the soccer team. He made it through the first two rounds of cuts. The final list was to be posted Monday morning. At breakfast on the momentous day, Sam said to his father that he was going to check the board first thing, when he arrived at school. When Dave got to the office that morning, his curiosity got the better of him and so he quickly went to the website to see if the team roster was there. It was, and Sam was not on the list. This is where the story gets interesting.

“Tom,” he said, “I was crushed. I had this image of poor Sam standing at the board with a single tear rolling down his cheek, other boys celebrating around him, and no one there to console him. I so wanted to phone him, maybe pick him up for lunch. It was all I could do not to do something. However, I had a busy day planned so I resigned myself to invest time with him that evening, in what would probably be a futile attempt at talking this out to rebuild his self-esteem and identity as athletic, capable young man.”

I’d never heard Dave express the parental protective instinct so passionately. After I affirmed his feelings, “Wow. That’s tough Dave,” he went on.
“When I got home that night, I gave him a hug and a kiss. The conversation went something like this:

“How are you?”
“What did you do for sports today?”
“I went out to volleyball.”
“Were you sad?”
“But you really wanted to make the soccer team.”
“Of course I was disappointed Dad, because I wanted to be on that team, But I wasn’t sad. There’s no point in being sad. There are so many other options at this school.”

I guess our young sons can indeed teach us our own lessons.

Thanks for reading,