I am like many parents in that my love for my children is embroidered with fear, mostly for their safety. But I am ashamed to admit to another fear—I worry about whether they will be successful. They are in second and fourth grade, so I realize I am little crazy here.
My 7-year-old has trouble reading, so much so that she is in summer school. My 9-year-old does okay in school, but zigzags between 100% and 70% on tests, so I doubt that she puts in a consistent effort.
It doesn’t take much for my mind to bounce from their modest performance in elementary school to a lousy high school GPA, fewer options for college, an unimpressive resume and finally a job they don’t like.
Did I mention I am crazy?
I am struggling against my own history here. A “B” on my report card was cause for a major dressing down and misbehavior of any kind was simply not tolerated. That particular brand of parenting kept me in line to be sure, but it also helped me cultivate my fabulous fears of failure and judgment.
I try not to repeat history in that respect, but it is hard to ignore the abundance of advice (and products) available to get kids to read at age 3, perform math ahead of grade level, get an academic/music/sports scholarship, etc. So I find myself pushing them to do more and better in school.
Unfortunately, there is comparatively little advice telling parents to back the f— off. To let kids be who and what they are going to be, even if that means they won’t do what you did in school, have as many friends, or whatever.
I think it would be an act of bravery for me to stop pushing so much and trust that my children will continue to be extraordinary people, so long as I give them love and a safe environment. Still teach them the basics, of course, but not take it to DEFCON 1 when they prefer the Disney Channel to reading or they don’t get fractions right off the bat. Still provide the best educational experiences I can, but give them some room to fail a little and to learn that failing is not the end of the world.
Clearly they will be better served if my parenting efforts are not lashed to strict expectations and fears about not being good enough (which I do realize I am projecting onto them).
This one is a work in progress. More to come…