Headmaster’s Thoughts – January 2009

Humpty Dumpty told Alice that he much preferred unbirthday presents to birthday presents, because they came more often. In fact, he made Alice do the mathematics, and was happy to point out to her that 364 unbirthday presents are far better than one birthday present.

I think I have the same view about New Year’s resolutions. If you are going to resolve to do something (or, more commonly, give up doing something), it seems counter-productive to have to wait until the New Year to act. You could (Humpty would be delighted to hear this) have a December 4th resolution, or a January 9th one; in fact any day you choose.

Most of us make these resolutions all the time. Sometimes almost hourly. Most of these resolutions are totally impractical and impossible to carry out. After I have had a big meal, I resolve never to eat so much again at a single sitting. You probably get where this is going. I have resolved numerous times, after reading the newspaper, that I will not get upset about the present condition of our country. I resolve, many times, to be much nicer to everyone that I know. As I said: impossible and impractical.

We all tend to be very hard on ourselves. We remember, in far too vivid detail, those embarrassing gaffes that we have made in our past, and we never seem to be able to remember the moments of our kindness, our (dare I say it) good decisions, or our helpfulness to others. I can think of many things I wish I hadn’t said, but there must be something I once said that I can now be proud of. No! Whatever it was has slipped my mind.

It is even worse being a parent. Now there is a lifetime job that makes insecure ninnies of us all. I have never yet met a parent (I fully include myself in this) who did not remember things he or she did with their children that they now wished they hadn’t done. My own children (how the wheel turns!) are going through the same agonies of self doubt as they try and bring up my four grandchildren. Though they feel insecure, the truth of course is that they are making similar mistakes and experiencing the same triumphs (the ones I absolutely cannot remember) that we all did.

So, for the New Year, let us be resolved about the inadequacies of our past resolutions. Let us not try to hold anyone (including ourselves) to impossible standards. Let us instead, attempt to forgive ourselves for the mistakes we have made, let us recognize our own successes, and let us live all 364 of our unbirthdays to the fullest.

Best wishes in 2009.

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

“Headmaster’s Thoughts” for previous months are archived in the section In the News. You may access additional months by clicking Headmaster’s Thoughts Archives on the same page.