One of the most enjoyable books I have read this summer is Tony Little’s ‘An Intelligent Person’s Guide To Education’. Covering topics such as headship, character education and vocation in teaching, there is something for everyone, regardless of the school you work in or attended. One story in particular struck me as an ideal piece to share with new parents at a boys’ school. Little quotes John McConnell, a Housemaster at Eton in 1967 who imagines a letter written to all mothers on their son’s fifteenth birthday. Text below from pages 52-53:
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 yoursellf 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.
I wonder if there is something similar written from a girls’ school point of view?