Headmaster’s Thoughts – April 2010

A word about grandchildren; they start off very small. Difficult, I have noticed, to talk to. Our dogs and cats respond better to heated discussion.


I understand that with time, grandchildren grow bigger and eventually will change your diaper rather than you change theirs, but, when very young, they tend to have visceral rather than thoughtful reactions to most stimuli. I was discussing the new Daniel Silva novel with my two-year-old granddaughter (on my son’s side) and she seemed to be more interested in calling (a euphemism, if ever there was one) for her mother. My daughter-in-law was very kind and indicated that the dog needed to go for a walk.


Recently, we had all four granddaughters together for a week. It was at that time that I realized the value of aspirin taken in large doses. Since I have been involved with children all my life, this tendency to avoid the convergence of four children under three and me in one room without anyone else, worries me. I have tried to play the clown, which resulted in nervous screams from the children that both mothers put down to my insanity. I have tried food, which led to a mess on the carpet. I have tried to play dead, which resulted in having my hair and feet simultaneously pulled by little hands. In short, I am not good at this sort of thing.


So when does it change? When do these irrational monsters become intelligent humans? One thing I know is that animals get there quicker. Jayme and I are about to get a kitten. It will be ten weeks old. One will be able to converse with it on a reasonable level. It will not scream at me; in fact, it will appear as though it likes my company. I have had the privilege of being present at a number of births of horses. After less than one hour of life, a foal can run faster than I can and will allow you (if you are careful) to pet him or her. Try that with a one-hour-old baby!


We humans really are pathetic when we are born. Totally dependent on our mothers, we need everything except grandfathers. Mothers understand this, and there is nothing more like feeling like a bump on a log than to be around when one of your daughters (in-law or natural) is giving birth. You are sent hither and thither to get you somewhere else. Get the nurse! Get some water! Get a towel! It all means, “Get out of the way!”


I am not a frivolous man. I like to discuss philosophy. I like to discuss literature. I like to discuss. My granddaughters do not seem in any rush to have this discussion. They play with toys made by Fisher-Price. Now, there is a company who seems to understand granddaughters. I don’t get the appeal of little plastic figures with buttons that squeak when pressed. I, obviously, don’t squeak as appealingly when I am pressed.


We “skype” our children. If you have ever meaningfully skyped a child under three, you are a wiser person than yours truly. I make faces. I make silly sounds. I am a headmaster of a school and I am making faces and silly sounds. If you saw me skyping any one of my granddaughters you would not send your child to York Prep. You would say, “That man is an idiot. I will not trust my children with him.”  A YouTube video of that Skype time would go something like this:


Me, with two hands coming out of my ears by their thumbs: “Hallo, hallo, hallo!”


Granddaughter, wailing: “Ma-Ma, Ma-Ma!”


Daughter to child: “There, there! He doesn’t mean it.”  To me, “Let’s talk later by phone!”


End of Skype connection.



My senior ethics class would find it quite amusing.


Until my grandchildren (whom I irrationally adore with intense passion) grow up, I think I will take the dog for a walk.



Ronald P. Stewart, Headmaster
E-mail: rstewart@yorkprep.org

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