Bodie's Vantage Points

Letter to Senior Parents: 2020

Dear Senior Parents,
 
Yes, it has come to this, and even though our closing weeks and celebrations have been far different from what we expected or wanted, I do want to take this moment to salute and thank deeply each and every one of you. You have been amazing partners on this journey, and nothing, not even a pandemic, will change that. In Great Expectations, our recent community read, Joe, Pip’s stepfather and faithful model of unconditional love, sometimes has a difficult time expressing himself. He often follows what he tries to say with a, “what I meantersay” and then says something that lands squarely on importance. So, senior parents, this is what “I meantersay” to you.  
 
I love the way in which you have shown such an abiding faith in each of your young graduates. Emerson says, “self-trust is the first secret of success,” and the dot-to-dot connection here cannot be missed. Your trust has allowed for self-awareness and resilience, which can carry our graduates not only through a pandemic, but also off to college, in whatever shape that will take. They are ready. They have about them the freedom of confidence that young people can rarely claim without the respect and faith from the adults around them. They have about them the power for their own perpetual self-making because someone important to them, believes in them. Thank you, parents, for your trust in your children, even as they get ready to leave you. 
 
There’s a quotation from Barbara Kingsolver that I share at the New Parents’ Dinner that has long captured my take on good parenting. She says that you want your children “to grow up to be neither destroyed or destroyers.” You have been our full-on partners in making sure that the learning for our children lives beyond the classroom and into the hallways, your living rooms, the world. Words such as kindness, goodness and care are no strangers to us, and we are a community, which never shies away from the word love. That matters, and our collective focus on decency, citizenship and humanity makes for a certain strength that doesn’t come just from books, lab reports, term papers or tests. Thank you for being part of our community, and thank you for letting us be part of your family.
 
Thank you for recognizing that your child is never just one person at any time. You welcomed the transformation of your fifth-grade poet daughter into the eleventh-grade scientist, and you honored the sometimes shy young scholar who would take the stage by storm. You knew that the plaid jumper, the blue or grey skirt might not be the only thing changing as we all grew up together: so many unexpected turns, so many delightful surprises. I often call this the magical unfolding, and we have been witnesses of this together. Poet Dana Gioia said, “How do you measure something that won’t hold still?” Well, you don’t. You just hold on to your seat and enjoy the ride. Thank you for being our seatmates these many years.
 
The influence you hold over your children is never linear but ever-present…even if for some of those middle school years, they walked behind you and asked you not to say anything to anyone. I actually remember at that age asking my mother to “not be so nice” to the shopkeepers and to “stop asking how they are.” She would smile at me and keep at it, and I would find some other place to be in the store. Throughout, holding hands or walking ahead of them, you have been their rock, their architectural foundation, letting them build on with their own style of brick. I once had a parent share with me the question that guided him in parenting. He asked, “what gift or character of mind would you most want to be thanked for when your child is 30?” Now, with a little quiet pride, might be a good time to name that character of gift in your own remarkable young scholar. Clara Spence, herself, in 1917, answered that very guiding question when she hoped that for every graduate, “the outer life of action and the inner life of thought (would be) closely interrelated.” I think Clara would be proud of this class.  
 
Finally, I’m always struck by the number of times our students call Spence “their second home.” It happens all the time. And lately I’ve been giving that some thought in regards to our partnership. I think it’s important to highlight that moniker of “second” because the first home, always is yours. It’s your home that makes ours a healthy second, and it’s your home that they will soon leave, but will always come home to. (Believe me…they will come back!) It’s your home in which they know every corner like the back of their hands, where they know they can just open that refrigerator door and grab whatever they want, where they find space to just be and to grow. And, we, at Spence, are happy to be the “second” to all of that.  
 
So, what I “meantersay” is thank you, parents, for your partnership, for your trust in us and for letting us be part of your lives. We will never let you go too far away. 
 

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