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by Dr. Cat Zusky, Director of Student Life

Do you remember the last time you saw your child lay face down in the sand to build a tunnel at the beach? Do you recall the sound of your child’s gleeful squeal the last time she flung a water balloon? Or the look of triumph he wore when he built a top-notch paper airplane? As the parent of elementary school children during the pandemic, these are all sights and sounds that I can call to mind with ease; however, I will guess that many of you who parent teenagers have a very different experience of time at home with your children in the last year. Squeals of delight are likely few and far between.

For those of us faculty members at Brentwood who have had the opportunity in the past few weeks to connect with Upper School students on campus, we have been thrilled to see and hear teenagers revert, in the best possible ways, to the glee and silliness and competition of being kids during our “MadSplash” events. As I discussed strategy with one deep-voiced senior, he rediscovered his LEGO skills and tried to remember how long it had been since he had tinkered. We saw teams of students dig in their heels and figure out the tricks of the water balloon launchers on the football field; some built paper airplanes, some created sandcastles together, and some competitively ate watermelon. And I learned things about kids that I would never have known. For example, Brentwood boasts a pair of sisters, one a junior and one a freshman, who have preternatural skill at writing their names in Sharpie with their toes. 

In addition to the “live” Splash events on campus, many students have participated in virtual competitions. Our first ever “Cupcake Wars,” hosted by Junior Dean Jess Chaintreuil, pitted students against one another in an epic mission to build an eagle out of frosting and vanilla cake, as the rest of the community watched from home. There was definitely some frosting on some faces. We will be hosting a trivia night this evening; it will be less sticky than cupcakes, but equally competitive. 

The “MadSplash” events, both virtual and in-person, are in lieu of the beloved September Splash tradition of the Upper School, during which grades 9 through 12 compete against one other in everything from trivia to dodgeball, culminating in a gigantic relay; it is impossible to recreate the competition and the glory of Splash as its been in the past, but we have certainly embraced the best parts of these events as we aim for fun and levity in the midst a challenging year. In many ways, the students have expressed their appreciation for and amazement in the little things that they never would have noticed before. Please know that your teenager’s inner child lives on; the laughter, shrieks, and fun, as well as the connections and collaboration, are such a crucial part of their experience of growth and development. Whether in the classroom, on the athletic field, at lunchtime, or during structured SEL activities, we look forward to seeing that twinkle in our students’ eyes as we transition back towards in-person learning. 

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