Below is a condensed transcription of a speech given to all parents on Parents Visiting Day by Waterford’s Head of School, Andrew Menke.

Good Morning. Welcome to Parent Visiting Day and Happy Valentine’s Day!

So our daughter, Anna, turned 30 last Monday our first-born, 30 years old how did that happen so quickly? I know that many of you have gone through this, but it feels like a milestone—certainly for her—but for Jennifer and me, how do we have a 30-year-old child?

So on the occasion of this Parents Visiting Day on Valentine’s Day, I offer a verbal love note of sorts to all of you, as I reflect on 30 years of parenting through the lens of 36 years serving schools.

Love your children enough to listen to them always! And, I know this is challenging, given how busy we all are. It takes patience and presence. You do not need to agree or affirm, remember they are exploring who they are and what they believe. This is natural and essential to their developmental growth. But your gift of undivided attention tells them that you care and that they matter. 

Go to everything here at school, church, sports, recitals, concerts, play dates, parties, karate. Again, I know this is nearly impossible, but you will not regret the time you have now with your child that you will not get back when they are 30! You have shown up today—thank you and Bravo!

Teach your child the value of agency through ownership. I attended a leadership retreat early in my time as a new school head, now nearly 26 years ago, and the most important takeaway was is ownership complete ownership. When children own their outcomes—good or bad—they maintain their destiny, the essential choice, the agency that allows them to learn from mistakes and see them as growth opportunities instead of as barriers.

One that Jennifer wanted me to add— work hard and be kind, it’s not about metrics, and A’s, accomplishments, awards or recognition. When you help your child develop a work ethic—grit, determination, perseverance, it will take them far in life. And it is what remains always within their control. And kindness matters, even when it is not reciprocated. Being nice to others is an ethic that will always matter because it enriches our lives, strengthens connections with others, and contributes to the collective well-being of society.

And finally, let them play—and I don’t mean gaming. I know there is an arms race of sorts to sign your child up for activities. Exposure and experimentation are wonderful, but the unending “resume building”  often leaves little time for the kind of individual exploration that helps to develop self-motivation, curiosity, wonder, creativity, and that intrinsic love of learning.  

And remember, as you likely know, your children will always need you. Last week, I was traveling back from NC on some school business, and from the airport, I was talking through a work email that my 30-year-old daughter wanted some advice about. I was glad she asked and it felt good to be needed. 

This is my “love note” to you as parents. Listen to your children, go to everything, teach them ownership, to work hard and be kind, and let them play.   

Likely all things you know and frequently practice, but I hope it helps to have them reinforced by someone—Me—who has spent the last 36 years around thousands of students and parents.

Thank you once again for being here with us today.

We are truly grateful to have your children here at Waterford

Waterford News

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