On behalf of Baldwin School, I extend a warm welcome to our returning and new families. If your summer was short on adventure and leisure, then I hope it at least afforded plenty of old fashioned quality time with your loved ones. We've been busy remodeling our campus, planning for the coming year, evaluating and revising curriculum, and updating our security procedures. Please be sure to review our mailings, electronic notices, and the Campus Connection.
Each summer we lead a group of students into the wilderness, far from cell phone coverage, social media, and all the other background noises of our modern age. We choose demanding physical environments from all across our amazing planet. We are limited by how much we can carry: supplies, food, creature comforts. We attempt to plan for every contingency, because we know from experience that we will face some unanticipated physical, emotional, or mental challenge while on trail. This year was no different.
Shortly after landing in Auckland, New Zealand, we contracted a fast moving stomach bug. It presented itself to us en route to our first campsite. In the course of a few days, most of our students fell ill, thankfully only for a few rough hours. We were forced to modify our trip and spend a few days convalescing in Rotorua. The kids were remarkably upbeat and supportive of one another in spite of our circumstances.
For many of our students, New Zealand represented their first significant time away from their families and the certainties of civilization. It was the first time they had to be completely independent, responsible for both personal and shared gear and provisions. For some of our students, it was their first time fully outdoors. For most, it was the first time they experienced illness, in a tent and under cold skies, without mom or dad to comfort them.
Once we were able to return to the outdoors, our kids were challenged with wet weather, the full weight of all their gear, fleeting daylight, an unrelenting mountain climb, and a steep and long descent. They know what it means to huddle around a fire to stay warm, and to seek shelter in their tent from the cold and night. They know the difference between having what you need and having what you want. They know what it means to be a team, to come to the aide of others for the sake of the group, to overcome self-doubt, to endure and succeed.
Buried in us all--even suburban and urban kids accustomed to the comforts that a kinder life affords--is an amazing capacity to overcome hardship and rise before any challenge. Too often, with the best of intentions, we deny our children the opportunity to experience hardship, even failure. It's an ages old truth: we learn the most about ourselves when we fall, when there is no easy way around our problems, when we alone must be the authors of our destiny, when we know we can be and do better. We learn how to save ourselves. We find another gear. We overcome and adapt. Resiliency is something earned the hard way. It's a transformational gift that instills in us the sense that no task, no challenge, is too great if only we keep our wits about us, stay positive, and work the problem. It was true in New Zealand, and it's true here at Baldwin.
As we begin our school year, I challenge each of you not to do for your child what they can do for themselves. Don't rush to save them from a bad day, from petty wants, from a difficult social situation, from a demanding teacher, from an unwanted grade. Instead, help them think through their problems and concerns. Help them discover the lessons they might learn from a difficult situation. Help them to develop proactive responses to their challenges. In this way, they will be fully prepared for adulthood.
I challenge you, as parents, to resist the well-intended and wholly counterproductive trap that is sympathy; that is, to suffer, in whole or part, with your children as they experience all those developmentally normal ups and downs. We survived, and so will our children. Ignore the pop psychology, the fear mongering, the flavor-of-the-month parenting strategies, and all those ridiculous social pressures in the WhatsApp universe that promote self-indulgent behaviors and unrealistic expectations in our children. Rather, be empathic. Be understanding of their hurts and frustrations, ask them what is theirs to own, and then remind them that every storm, no matter how great, yields to a better day. Recent generations are seemingly far more fragile than their forebears, easily slighted and emotionally defeated. History knows that these are not the defining traits of our species, we who rose up to claim a planet without the benefit of tooth or claw. If our children are to be fragile, we will make them so. Choose a different outcome.
I look forward to a wonderful year. See you around campus.