The school year has begun with a hiccup and a cough, but even a couple of days and then a holiday is enough to remember the rhythm, and to clearly recall the way my heart thumps harder and faster in my chest as I imagine the fate of my progeny. Who will they be? Will they succeed?
Then I remember there is no specific grading system for success except the one by which we judge ourselves.
So lately, when I wake up with crazy brain, fretting over every little thing my kids did or said, I try to breathe a bit easier and quiet the cacophony of negative ideas.
My kids are already who they are: sweet, sensitive, bright boys who are both engaged and curious, quiet, and reserved. They are capable of being highly interested in people and things, and yet sometimes they just want to do their own thing. Judgment comes easily.
I have this horrendous habit of comparing — one that my children routinely call me on. But when that negative torrent of thoughts about how everyone else’s family has it together in ways my family doesn’t comes on hard, I know the comparisons are never fair. I don’t look at the whole of people, just the pieces that I might want my kids or myself to emulate. The words “You know, your friends are busy doing X, and I wish…” even come out of my mouth sometimes,
Really? And I think this is good parenting? Fearless parenting? In those moments, I have to dress myself down and remember that just because we live in one of the most densely populated places in America, we need not look outside our home to gain the inspiration we need. Motivation needs to come from within, from our own desire to please ourselves and decide who we are and want to be.
Of late, it has come up about what kinds of activities one might need for admission to a “good” college. The clock is ticking, and there’s no time like the present to start padding that resume and…
No. I have to stop whenever we link our desire for our kids to be busy and engaged with college admission. The reason I want them to learn how to be busy and engaged is so that they can figure how to get busy and engaged.
It reminds me of a girl I went to college with. She was very aggressive and wanted to do well in journalism school. I also wanted to do well, but I still wanted to have fun. One day we were asked to pass back assignments in an investigative journalism class. It was a cool assignment, and when I finished it, I remember thinking, “I enjoyed doing that.” I did the assignment then went out, as I often did.
In class the next day, the teacher asked us to pass up the assignment, and we did. The minute he had gathered all of them, he told us that just by doing the assignment, we had engaged with the material, and that had been the idea, so we all got As. I thought that was the coolest thing a professor had ever done, and was just exactly in line with how the assignment had felt to me.
But my aforementioned classmate made an angry noise and threw up her hands.
“Great,” she said. “If I’d have known we’d all get As, I would have gone out.”
Her reaction stuck with me. And the lesson that we should try as much as possible to do our work enjoyably, and make time also to do other enjoyable activities, has also stuck with me.
We should try not to focus too much on the grade that someone else give us because if we do, our lives and those of our kids could fly by in a flurry of stress and strain rather than enjoyment and gratitude.
And that, most certainly, would be a shame.