Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I've probably already ruined my kid's college applications, and I think I'm cool with that

Parenting is hard. Really freaking hard. Like there is always a constant gnawing worry, in your belly, and a fog on your brain, about whether or not you are doing the right things for your child. Are you helping them to be the best they can be, are you setting them up for success? Will I ever be able to give them the same opportunities I had? Seriously it can be terrifying. For instance, here is some stupid crap that I worry about, beyond the terminal illness, brain trauma, and death fears, and those are really fun too. I worry about that fact that my kids have no college fund, that they haven't ever been on a team sport, but just tried classes, I worry, that they aren't super good at any one thing yet. I worry that I have let them eat too many of some kinds of foods and not enough of others. The list goes on and freaking on!Being a kid is hard too. It may seem awesome and carefree, now that we are adults, but I remember the horrors, the pressure, the pain of my suburban life of privilege all too well.

Then I get an email from my school district offering me a night of learning how to parent my TAG (Talented and gifted) student, and this is what it is advertising, a night with a woman who will do this- "she discussed good planning for high school in anticipation of getting ready for college. Her presentation will include ideas for using the time in high school wisely, in order to create an interesting and perhaps unique college application. For parents of middle school students". 

Pardon my use of potty mouth abbreviation, but WTF?!?!

I don't want to spend the next six years of my kid's life making her live so other people will think she is worthy. I don't want to carefully craft her teenage years so colleges will notice her. I don't want her to learn that it's all about the end game and that the college application process is that end game. I don't want her to live with that pressure, because that is crap!

What I really want for my kids, is to know what it means to be loved, to know that they are loved, and to be able to love others. Seriously that is what I want. So that is what I am going to put my energy and my worry into. That. Screw the rest of it!

Have we done that? You know what I think we have but some good effort into it. Not perfectly, there have been a lot of bumps, but I think we have. We have provided lots of experiences for them. We have let them explore their interests, communicating to them that we value what they think. We have encouraged them to try new things, and do things that they aren't always good at. We have loved and snuggled them for hours in front of way too much TV. Let them stay up too late watching violent things like the Ateam. We have taken them to concerts that were too loud, amusement parks that were too corporate and expensive. We have let them eat dessert every night that they can remember, but we have also taught them about where their food comes from, and what foods fuel them. We have showed them what it means to live in a family and be with a group, communicating that you don't always get your way, and you have to put others needs ahead of your own.We have taken them to the places and situations where we enjoy serving others, and modeled what that means. We have let them care for way too many animals, but we have also taught them compassion and responsibility for another living thing. We have missed countless deadlines for team sign ups, and financial opportunities, and all kinds of workshops on parenting. We have gotten caught up in the experiences of life too often sometimes to focus on the bigger picture. We have also admitted our mistakes and we have apologized. So we might not be doing everything right, we are definitely screwing somethings up, but we are doing our best, and helping them do their best at being decent, loving, compassionate human beings.

Doing things that look good on a college application is not bad. Please don't misunderstand. I don't think getting good grades, excelling at things, being on sports or other teams are bad things, they are great. It's the pressure, and the why of it, that sucks. Are you just doing it for that college board? Are you doing it because if you don't you aren't good enough? If that's why, it's no good!

So I am going to quit wasting my time worrying so much, modeling the bad behavior of putting ridiculous pressure on myself. I am going to make some brownies, and snuggle under a blanket with my kids and watch the Ateam, after they finish their homework. But then I promise we will get off our butts and walk the dog. I think that's good college prep for today.

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