During my first year at Nobles, I ran into a Class I girl at a local convenience store. I had gotten to know her well, and we chatted amicably at the counter. As we parted ways, she said, "So, you're not going to bust me?" I didn't know what she was talking about until I realized that she was off-campus during the academic day without permission. I paused and replied, "Um, yes, I am afraid I do have to bust you." And she looked at me dead in the eye and said, "I thought you were cool." I responded the only way I could: "No, I'm not cool." I'd be lying if I said that admission didn't kill my young ego a little bit. Yet, I was also experienced enough to know that if I was to have any credibility among the student body and my peers, whether I wanted to or not, I had to do what I had to do.
In early August, Ben Snyder passed on to you Lisa Damour's New York Times essay "Don't Make Your Children the Exception to Every Rule." If somehow you didn't get around to reading it, drop what you are doing and read it now. Ms. Damour writes that "research on well-being—the outcome closest to happiness that psychologists will promise—centers on three core factors: health, relationships and a sense of mastery in one's chosen pursuits." But, here's the point she makes that I believe is crucial for every parent and faculty member to understand as we start the new school year, "It turns out that adult happiness doesn't arise from parents bending the rules to a child's advantage; it comes from children learning the rules and conforming to them."
The parents who repeatedly bend the "little" rules and allow their children to sleep in late during long assemblies or slide out of afternoon commitments are doing their children and those of us who work here no favors. Running interference for your children not only undermines your child's relationship with the school, but it also erodes the one crucial quality for future success in all areas of life: resilience.
As a parent and someone who has been at this for over 30 years, I understand that sometimes kids can just wear us down, and for our own sanity, we throw in the towel. There are also important situations in which an exception is the right and compassionate way to go. But, I also know that once we start regularly bending the rules or choosing which ones are worthy, it's like a rock rolling down a hill. We just can't stop. And our children, at a crucial stage in their own moral development, pick up and take advantage of our biases and inconsistencies. Is it any wonder that some of our children approach laws, obligations and rules as if they are condiments at a beachside buffet? It is learned behavior. It is the gateway to future complications and heartache. It is often an avoidable path.
The alternative to having a harmonious relationship with your child is not an appetizing one. Yet, if you want to increase the odds of your child being a happy, resilient, and conscientious adult, you have to bite the bullet now. Be the adult and the parent that you signed up to be, not the "best bud" to your children and their friends. It only takes a handful of "cool" parents, who often unwittingly place their own emotional needs above all else, or "helicopter" parents, who must control every outcome, to create social chasms between students and undermine faculty relationships with kids. We have always done our best to address these situations in a manner that allows everyone to maintain their dignity, learn from the situation, and get on with their life. For the well-being of all who walk through our halls, we will not hesitate to address any and all behavioral issues head on.
If the above seems a bit direct, please know this: I believe with all my heart that Nobles has the most grounded and cooperative student and parent body that I could ever hope to know. There is a vibe here that I have never found anywhere else. There's not a day that has gone by in all my time here that I haven't thanked my lucky stars for being a part of something so magical. The hard questions and gut-checks that I lay out for all are ones that I, too, wrestle and agonize over on a weekly basis. As a long-term employee and the father of two current students, I have gained great insight and solace from colleagues and parents as to how best to navigate the inevitable and the unexpected. This campus has been a wonderful to place to learn, to fail mightily, and to rise again. We are here for you; thank you for being there for all of us.