From the desk of the Head Master 22 November 2017
I very much enjoyed Middle Fifth Parents’ Evening on Tuesday. Granted, it was perhaps not the way I would choose to spend my birthday........
I very much enjoyed Middle Fifth Parents’ Evening on Tuesday. Granted, it was perhaps not the way I would choose to spend my birthday, but needs must, and as always it was a wonderful reminder of just how nice and supportive Warwick School families are. It was reassuring to hear of boys, for whom this hitherto had not been the case, who are starting to make really strong progress and are enjoying their subjects, as well as hearing from some who had been read the riot act by their teachers. I used to dread Parents’ Evening as a boy; back in the days before it was fashionable to invite pupils to attend, whilst I hoped my teachers would just lie and say I was working really hard, deep down I knew that my mother’s car pulling up in the driveway would presage yet another conversation about my lacklustre approach to academic study.
Anyway, I shared with parents this letter which I think sums up elegantly and succinctly the challenges of parenting teenager boys. It was written in 1967 by John McConnell, a Housemaster at Eton, who imagines a letter sent to all mothers (although it applies just as much to fathers) on the occasion of their son’s fifteenth birthday. It has been much quoted, not least in Tony Little’s excellent book ‘An Intelligent Person’s Guide To Education’. I don't know anything about parenting teenagers (my children will tell you that I don't know anything about parenting), but I suspect this is good advice. Although take the comment about length of hair with a pinch of salt!
Today is Tom’s 15th birthday. You will be glad to hear that he received a nice bundle of envelopes and packages in the post this morning. The cake you ordered has arrived safely and I have given him leave to go home to lunch with you next Sunday.
However, the real purpose of this letter is to try and prepare you for an imminent change in the relationship between yourself and your son. The affectionate small boy who has quite justifiably been your pride and joy is about to undergo such a transformation that you may begin to wonder if you have mothered a monster. The piping treble voice, you will observe, has already begun to crack. The down on his cheeks and chin is stiffening into defiant bristles and there is an angry hue about the blemishes on his skin. Perhaps you have started to wonder where you have gone wrong, and what you have done to deserve his new found anger. You, who have shown him most affection, will seem to be the butt for his most barbed and unkindly remarks. That is because you are still the most important woman in his life and the most convenient target for his burgeoning masculine aggressiveness.
Do not despair. Ride out the storm. Be firm but affectionate. At this moment when he seems to need you least, he needs you the most. Make a stand about the principles you regard as fundamental. Give him rope about the less important things. Do not worry too much about his wearing of apparel or the length of his hair. Comfort yourself with the knowledge that his present mood is transitory. If you do this and stand firm as a rock in the midst of his tempestuous life, the small boy whom you thought you had lost will return to you a charming young man – well-groomed in appearance and with delightful manners. He will have been worth waiting for.
Meanwhile, we are both of us in for one hell of a time.