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Lessons from a child who has not yet met the world

| Thursday, August 26, 2021

The onset of the pandemic inspired amongst psychologists, teachers and parents a fear far worse than the possibility of catching a child with a runny nose: How will the occurrence of such a cataclysmic event during kids’s and young adults’s formative years impact their emotional and educational development?

Notre Dame’s class of 2025, who have just descended onto campus, fell asleep on the eve of an extended spring break during their junior year of high school and are now awakening as full-fledged college freshmen. Such a drastic transition as the one which happens between graduation and move-in weekend is already daunting in a “normal” year. Losing out on a year and a half of traditional education and social interactions will only intensify the emotions — both good and bad — associated with such a pivotal life moment.

I have had the privilege of watching a child grow up during the pandemic: Noah was born in October 2018, and with two medical professionals as parents, he needed a companion as often as someone was available. I draw on my experience as his nanny to offer advice to this year’s incoming first-years — from one child who lost important years of their life to another.

1. Few problems cannot be solved with a nap.

Toddlers emerge from rest with refreshed faces and markedly improved attitudes, and their lives are arguably less stressful than those of adults. Between classes, extracurriculars and maintaining a social presence, college life quickly grows overwhelming. There is no shame in collapsing onto your twin XL with only the intention of sleeping until the dining hall starts serving breakfast again… tomorrow.

2. Temper tantrums are sometimes necessary.

Throwing a fit because your nanny will not allow you to have ice cream for dinner: unacceptable. But there will be times when your words are the best tool by which to voice your frustrations or communicate your feelings. Do not fear sticking up for yourself, your rights and the people and ideas you hold most dear, whether that be in or out of the classroom.

3. Questions nurture your knowledge.

Noah is an interrogator: He is undeterred by the prospect of asking difficult questions, even if half of them are simply “Why?” You may no longer wonder why the sky is blue, but you must still be confident enough to ask for an explanation when an idea does not make sense. Professors may be terrifying from afar, but in reality they are just nerds for their subject material. It is less embarrassing to raise your hand in class than miss a question on an exam because you were too timid to ask for clarification.

4. Trying and failing is better than stopping altogether.

Watching Noah attempt to tie his shoes never fails to make me smile. Although he is often frustrated by simple tasks, he persists until progress is made. However challenging the college experience becomes, look back on the journey to remind yourself of how far you have traveled. You are not expected to learn anything entirely on your own; lean on your peers, your unopened textbook or the Google search bar when you need assistance.

5. Show your love by sharing.

There is no better feeling than having a child entrust to you their favorite yellow monster truck simply because they want you to also partake in its joy. Acts of generosity — sharing time, talents or possessions — allow you to demonstrate love in moments where words do not suffice. Share yourself with those around you, and the same openness will be returned to you. The only person on this campus whose name you know right now is likely your roommate, but by the time you walk across that stage again, there will be no shortage of people with whom you can sit down and reflect on the memories from the last four years.

Examining your high school career, it would be easy to complain that you were robbed of your youth. And while this did occur, you were not robbed of the opportunity to continue learning, growing into yourself, expanding your minds and hearts — such a fact is evidenced in a 3-year-old boy who is just now getting to experience life as it should be lived. A child’s resilience allows them to take the world in their hands and form it in such a way that it is made better for themselves and others. There is not a doubt in my mind that the class of 2025 has been exceptionally prepared to do the same. Welcome home.


Kylie Hartman


Aug. 24

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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