Training Wheels and High Heels

Why indeed have a formal or a ‘Cardinal’ in SCOTS PGC terms? Is it just an excuse to buy new clothes, or make one’s-self “beautiful” and take selfies? Is it an excuse to hire/borrow or otherwise an incredible vehicle to make a grand entrance down the red carpet? On the surface of these types of events, this all happens to various degrees (heaven forbid my daughter wear the same dress twice….). However, there are much more complex experiences being shared as part of adolescent development. Our Year 12 students continued that development and enjoyed another moment that was an example of the rights of passage experienced by our students as they begin to move beyond our school’s metaphorical walls. A week or so ago, as they alighted from the most impressive range of vehicles I have ever seen, they made and enjoyed making more memories of their time at SCOTS PGC College. I trust that our parents and carers of these young adults also enjoyed this moment.

It is always interesting and joyful (at least mostly) in watching the development of our young people. Our boys arrived, many wearing what were obviously new suits or other new items of clothing. Even something that becomes so mundane in later life, such as the purchasing of a new suit, can be a significant moment. I still remember my grandfather taking me to David Jones in the city to buy my first. Likewise, the shopping for dresses for daughters can also be part of the special relationship between parent and child. Although I duck for cover when this happens at home.

It must be said, that without exception the boys looked sharp. Watching boys who are comfortable in rugby shorts and training shirts, or who normally are challenged in wearing a school uniform correctly suddenly appear beautifully attired and perfectly groomed shows their sense of occasion and their personal development as young men. No doubt it shows their awareness of hair “product” as well. How times have changed.

Similarly, observing our girls can be enlightening too. As the dad of two girls I understand the immense energy that goes into the preparations for such a night. Observing the preparation for the girls is an entire education in itself, and one that I have shared previously in briefings with senior students, staff and parents, over the course of my career. Dresses, shoes, makeup, tan, hair, and the list goes on and on. In spite of the similar ages there were some differences in observing the genders. The girls seemed, at times, cold, never letting comfort get in the way of fashion. The boys looked comfortable in long pants, coats, long shirts. It was pleasing to observe boys allowing their partners the use of their jackets when this occurred. Social courtesies being not only learned but demonstrated. The boys also seemed far more comfortable in their shoes. The girls perhaps needing training wheels for their heels, especially when negotiating stairs and sometimes the dancefloor. When I once asked how a night like this was going for my own child, my daughter whispered to me ‘my feet hurt’. I smiled. Perhaps a female specific rite of passage here as well?

The overriding lesson for me though was through the general observation of all our kids at such an event. Looking smart, manners front and centre and even the introductions made by boys and girls to my wife and I were really first class. From a distance, many of the adolescents (our children) could have passed for being in their mid-twenties. This made me reflect. Sometimes we can expect too much from our children, or worse, allow them the leeway of an adult because of their physical appearance. It is hard to remember they are still largely kids on the inside. When I stood back and observed closely and, more importantly, truly listened, it became very obvious that our teenagers are on their way to adulthood but the journey is far from complete. There is still a lot of little boy or girl in there! And, that is a good thing. We should, whilst supporting our children’s growth and development, remember that they are not yet grown up. Helping them to grow up slowly, at the right times, and with a graduation of responsibility and expectation is important. Many of our kids miss out on being teenagers and go straight to adulthood. The teenage years are important in developing good adults. And, there’s no need to rush to complete the journey.

So as our boys and girls left the venue I thought about what an important night this was in terms of that adolescent journey. I thought about all of the benchmarks of increasing maturity I observed and of the benchmarks showing these boys and girls not yet to be adults, but they are getting close. We must remember that training wheels are not just for high heels being worn for the first time but they are important for many aspects of the adolescent years, as children develop into great human beings.