Preparing Boys for Life.

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Capturing the brass ring
Jay Greytok '83, Head of Middle School

The warmer temperatures of this time of year invite creative thoughts of June, July, and August fun as well as reminders of the excitement of the Jersey shore. As a child, I was lucky my grandparents owned a small home near the beach. It provided our family a place to stay, and a young boy more opportunities for distraction than should be allowed by law.

I often left home at dawn only to return for food and sleep. For a kid, it was paradise. Happily, many of the activities from 40 years ago still remain, but one practice that is no longer present is the chance to ride the merry-go-round and capture the brass ring.

On a typical summer evening, my friends and I became masters at grabbling two or three rings for every pass on the carousel. Many dollars and countless hours were spent perfecting our craft, but we had the time, the vision, and the capabilities. We also had the financial and emotional support of our parents who sometimes came to watch our carefully managed plans, strategically placed arrangement on the carousel, and the thrill of victory, even when it only meant one free ride worth less than a quarter. In some ways, it seems like gambling, but in others, it was the symbolic reaching and stretching for something that seemed almost unattainable and our constant battle to win every time. How often is this comparable to what we do as parents?

We live in a culture that seems to struggle with balance between what is right for our children while often tempted to push our kids to reach for a brass ring, to have a competitive drive to fail yet learn from failure, try again and eventually succeed.

Finding the appropriate balance of activities that encourage and support growth with those activities that stretch and challenge our boys to fail and learn from failure is hard to manage. We blend down time with time that is over-scheduled. We want healthy children but also want to challenge kids to achieve at a high level. Some of our boys can actually handle a rigorous and demanding schedule and even thrive in that environment. However, some of our guys are not quite ready to work non-stop from dawn to dusk and need time to reflect or they have only one activity that is their passion.

Reading the body language of your son and carefully listening to what he is saying can be very helpful in finding the sweet spot for persistence and achievement. My friends and I were not the most talented boys in the world, but we had the willingness to ride that carousel until our pennies were spent, all in the pursuit of a brass ring. Helping our guys discover and harness a passion for something they can do time and again, in a healthy way, can lead to even greater life lessons than winning a free ride on the merry-go-round.

- Jay Greytok '83, Head of Middle School

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