I come to Connecticut History Day not as a student, not as an educator, but as a parent. My role has evolved over the last six years as I have gained perspective on how to best support, encourage, and maintain expectation with my daughter Lindsay, who is passionate about history and passionate about History Day.
A bit of background. Lindsay began participating in the performance category of History Day in 6th grade. She was introduced to CHD through the Quest Program as Sedgwick Middle School, under the guidance of her teacher, Jennifer Hunt. As 2019 starts, Lindsay is now in 11th grade and about to participate for the 6th time. That first year, I'll be honest, I had no idea what History Day was about. Lindsay largely conducted her research and wrote her script as school. All I knew was that she needed a few props for her "Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire" performance and the date she was to perform. We arrived in Torrington and I was shocked. Shocked by both the level of talent and the level of competition. Based on her amazing experience that day, Connecticut History Day soon became on integral part of our life.
I have learned that my job as a parent is to provide Lindsay with support in three different areas. The first is access. Access to the tools and resources she needs to create a successful CHD project. That can take different forms. For example, the year Lindsay did a performance on Peggy Shippen Arnold, Benedict Arnold's wife, we spent Columbus Day driving around the Benedict Arnold Trail in Norwich and New London. We visited Fort Griswold Battlefield State Park, the Ebenezer Avery Historic House, Fort Trumbull, and visited the grave site of Col. William Ledyard who was killed during the siege. Providing her access to be in the physical spaces where history took places provides her with the ability to create her own picture and thoughts.
My next job, after her research is largely complete and she has begun to write the script, is to listen and encourage. Listen to her thoughts about the script, how she wants to stage the performance. Ask questions to further narrow down her topic, to get her to clarify exactly what she wishes to convey. This can be challenging. She does not always want to hear my opinion, even when asked. In the end though, it is her decision, it is her project. I am here to be a sounding board.
My last job is to manage expectations. This has been the hardest area for me and I have become better at it as the years have gone on. As a parent, you always want your child to do well, to win the medal, to move on to the next level, but that doesn't always happen. It took Lindsay four years to win at the State Contest in the performance category and move on to Nationals, a goal she set for herself back in the 6th grade. In the first three years, she would get close but not move on. I can tell you there were many tears shed. She had to learn that she can't always win. She had to learn how to be graceful and supportive of those who did win. She had to learn that winning does not define her or her work. Not easy concepts to process even as an adult. She has learned to take the good with the bad and look at CHD as a journey, not individual events.
CHD has provided Lindsay with a world of opportunities and given her the skills and experiences that will help her all throughout her life. I truly feel she has an edge as she moves forward to college. She knows how to research, manage her time, create clear and effective projects, and can confidently present them to others. CHD has given her direction and has further fueled her love of the past and its lessons for the future. As a mom, I couldn't be happier.
Lisel Moynihan is a long time Connecticut History Day parent, supporting her daughter, Lindsay.