By Rus VanWestervelt, NDP Dad of Maddie, Class of 2020
As an NDP Dad, I have a particular interest in the significance of the blue dress and what it means every time my daughter is wearing it. Whether it is for a typical school day, a sponsored trip, or an after-school jaunt to Target and Starbucks, there’s a reason why #RespectTheDress is an important message for all of our daughters. They represent everything that NDP stands for.
We, as parents, are no different than our daughters’ administrators and teachers, who expect them to rise to the standards and pillars held by NDP as much in the public sector as when they are in the classroom.
It doesn’t—and shouldn’t —end there. Every time I wear my blue NDP cap, well loved and tattered, the expectation should be the same for me as it is for any of our daughters.
Unfortunately, I’ve seen the ugly side of what happens when those sporting a school’s spirit wear act inappropriately in public. Earlier this summer, I was in a Towson restaurant waiting for my carry-out order, and in front of me was a gentleman of comparable age, wearing a hat and hoodie that celebrated his child’s private school. The father was outraged as he waited for the employee, still fairly new in her position, to complete his order. The more angry and outspoken he became, the more challenging she found it to assist him. This was a busy restaurant, and the carry-out area is on full display for the eat-in crowd. His antics were disrupting to everyone, and as each patron turned around to see what was happening, it was impossible to separate his wholly inappropriate behavior with the school logos he sported on his clothing.
The association between the behavior and the school was created in our minds. This parent, who supported this particular private school, was somebody I did not want my children being associated with. Frankly, it was embarrassing for him and for the school. You simply could not separate the two.
When our daughters put on the blue, iconic dress, they are making a statement of what it means to be an NDP sister. The legacy runs deep, and my own daughter has been stopped by NDP sisters who graduated many years ago because of what she was wearing. The memories they shared are the very essence of what it means to represent NDP through the clothes we wear.
When wearing my blue hat I have also been stopped by NDP parents, past and present, and even graduates who want to share that bond of what it means to be a part of the NDP community.
Although I can never be fully aware of all who might be looking at me or judging the merits of the school based on my actions, I do know that every time we put on the NDP hat or wear the NDP hoodie we are advertising everything NDP stands for to three probable audiences.
Present or Former NDP families
We seem to notice first those who are a part of our family, don’t we? When I bought a Jeep Wrangler years ago, I found myself suddenly offering the Jeep “wave” to hundreds of my new off-road family members. The same was true when we joined the NDP family; everywhere we went, we noticed others sporting the classic blue-and-white spirit wear. We expect our family members to act like we want our daughters when wearing the dress.
Potential NDP families
Families are always looking for school options for their own children, their relatives, or even neighbors who are considering what might be best for their daughters. It is so easy for us, as wearers of the hats and the hoodies, to contribute to that perception of what NDP is really all about. If we are loving and compassionate to all, if we are patient and kind in our interactions with others, then we convey the same message that we wish our daughters to convey.
Families with an existing perception (positive or negative) of NDP
We have the chance to support or change the perceptions that might already exist about NDP. If, for whatever reason, an individual perceives NDP in a negative light and sees us acting in a way that is as inappropriate (the gentleman in front of me in that carry-out line, for example), then we are only confirming that negative perception and cementing that attitude against NDP. If we act differently and behave appropriately, however, we have the chance to turn around those misperceptions and offer individuals the chance to rethink their opinions of us.
So as we send our daughters to school and beyond and ask them to #RespectTheDress, I ask that we, as parents, #RespectTheGear, and be united with our daughters in representing the NDP values that mean so much to us: to act justly, to love tenderly, and to walk humbly with our God.