August 26, 2015
Choosing your Maginot Line
Having raised four children who are now fairly well-adjusted adults, I look back and ponder the battles we waged, and the ones I ceded to my worthy opponents. For years, piercings were the bane of my existence as a mother and a school administrator. For both I followed the “do not trip my gag reflex” rule. No matter how unjust it seemed, if I winced from some protuberance coming from face or visible areas of body, said inanimate offender was heretofore banished. I totally understood the unfairness of my rule, but if I had to think about how a child breathed or swallowed, then I was opposed to the location. That edict lasted for many years until students, friends, and young teachers began sporting non-traditional piercings, and thus I began not only to loosen my restrictions, but also to notice those former offenses less.
"I want each girl here to be respected and appreciated for the gifts that are hers and the joy that she brings each day."
When my son, at age 16, wanted a tattoo of the Tasmanian Devil holding a lacrosse stick to be inked on his thigh, I knew that suggesting that the devil might be less appealing as they both aged would be met with derision. I therefore proposed that he go with his father, as tattoo parlors could be harbingers of disease transmitted through unclean needles. For my son, a bit of a hypochondriac, that was enough, and coincidentally the last we heard about body ink. Sometimes a mom has to do what a mom has to do.
My daughter took to the ’80s as though she had written both the score and lyrics. Her hair was puffy and platinum. I did suggest a little tone-down for a visit with my mother, a matriarch straight out of central casting. Who would imagine that my mother would simply throw her arms around her granddaughter and never comment on the Ellie Mae/Daisy Duke look? My mom taught me something that afternoon about not sweating the small stuff.
In the end, another son went for body art, while my daughter still rocks her own wonderful style, toned down to be sure, but it’s her own look. Sometimes I feel regretful for moments of frustration and anger, but most of the time I am pretty sanguine about those long-ago years, and find that I am now more forgiving of others and myself. Perhaps more of my mother’s good influence has quietly lodged in my psyche. With students, I hold the line on issues guided by our community moral compass, but I delight in all of the personalities I am able to cherish and enjoy, every single day.
We are all works in progress, and I remain ever optimistic for these generations that follow. I want each girl here to be respected and appreciated for the gifts that are hers and the joy that she brings each day. I want each student to question, challenge, and advocate for herself but always with respect for her teachers. I want every single girl to feel confident and courageous every single day.
Marlborough is clearly a school that fosters the best of a single sex school—a place where girls are expected to be academic and moral leaders. As the adults, we need to help them to find balance and calm. They should sleep and eat in ways that support their wonderfully growing selves. Their bodies need to last a long lifetime, and in order to do that, they need comfort and care. We are here to guide, celebrate, offer appropriate boundaries, and, to the best of our abilities, keep them safe. I look forward to getting to know them all, as the lives of girls are my passion and my life’s work. It is critical that parents and schools work in partnership as these young women are already creating our happiest memories. I look forward to our work together.