As my 42nd birthday is approaching in two weeks. I feel myself developing a serious case of "perspective".
I have spent the past 17 years doing what all of the talking heads and experts suggested parents should or should not do while raising their children. Because honestly, who wants to screw their kids up?
From the early years I listened to public opinion. How imperative it was to find a fabulous preschool for my three year old. When all I really wanted was to live our lives at home quietly. We chose our home based on what was deemed the "best" elementary school that year. Only to turn around 3 years later and pull them out to homeschool.
I listened to those that said I needed to put my kids in middle school so they would not get behind for high school. So they would have a chance to acclimate to the social environment. After about two months into that train wreck, the last thing I wanted was for them to acclimate to ANYthing that was going on socially there.
When Son #1 began his high school career I went to all of the parent meetings. Listened to all of the words. Everything that they needed to do - the timeline they would follow. The buzzwords - Path. Plans. College. Resume. Majors. I remember feeling like it was my job to direct my son. Make him be all that he could be. If the grades weren't good - there should be a consequence. If the attitude was poor - another consequence. If the test scores weren't high enough - DO something about it.
And I wasn't alone. I watched MANY parents wringing their hands. Pushing their children to their "fullest" potential. I think that is what we said to justify it. But it just wasn't so.
Today I went to school with Son #2. A sophomore. We would receive his PSAT scores and go over them. We arrived at school a bit later than I had planned - but such is life. When we got there Son had to take his things to the gymnasium as he has an away wrestling match and would be leaving the school early. I told him I I would wait for him in the other building where the assembly would be held.
It felt like forever. Every single student from the sophomore and junior class had already arrived and taken their seats. Seated alphabetically in fact to make distribution of the scores that much easier.
But I wasn't seated. Nor was my son.
I stood in the window watching the Quad waiting for some sign that my son was coming. Eventually - more than 10 minutes into the assembly - Son #2 made his way out of the gym. I started to feel stressed out. MY son would be the one to be late and wouldn't we look like slackers.
We entered the auditorium and were shuffled into the back row as discreetly as possible not to interrupt what had already begun.
I sat and listened.
There were all of those words again.
Except this time I felt completely different.
You see I have already been there and done that now. With Son #1.
I heard their words. I've shared my words with my son and I've watched him do precisely whatever he wanted to do.
I thought about all of the effort I had put into Son #1's high school life. How much I had tried to FORCE him to do what I thought were the right things. The things that everyone else says matter. But ultimately, Son #1 has his own life to live without all of my unnecessary interruption. He is in his Senior year. Applying to colleges. And I have finally accepted - whatever will be, will be. HE has to be the one to work this all out.
His achievements are not mine. His failures are not mine.
It's not about me. Phew. What a relief. IT'S. NOT. ABOUT. ME.
As Son #2 and I sat there together - they talked about making arrangements for him to do a job shadow in a few months. You know - go visit someone who is doing what you want to do for a profession. I almost laughed. At 15 years old - Son #2 has absolutely NO idea what he wants to do for the rest of his life. (Frankly, most college aged kids do not either.) In fact, I know that the most prevalent thing on his mind was his upcoming afternoon wrestling tournament and the fact that he was really hungry and it was pizza day.
I had one thought.
That is okay.
It is okay that he doesn't know what he wants to do for the rest of his life at the age of 15. It is okay that he doesn't like school. It is okay that he has days that he feels lost. It is more than okay. It is normal.
I saw him lean forward and rub his face with his hands. Trying to sit in his seat and listen obediently to all of the instructions and recommendations. There certainly was alot of heavy duty talk preceding the release of those test scores. Why shouldn't he feel stressed out?
My husband and I have recently been having some discussions. He has found himself unhappy with his job. The other day while complaining about how he felt, I interrupted him. "So what do you want to be when you grow up?" He laughed half-heartedly and responded. "Yeah. Really..."
Because how many people really know what they want to be? Furthermore, how many people actually get to do what they really want to do? Even better - how many people knew what they wanted to do at 15?
Heck. I'm turning 42 and I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up.
I leaned over and whispered, "I was thinking that maybe you should fly out to Maui for your Job Shadow Day. You know - hang out with some surfer dudes and see if you really want to be a surfer or not."
His head swiveled around to look at me. He started to laugh. I think he was almost surprised that I cracked the joke.
After all - isn't this the parent that was always standing there telling him what he needed to do to be successful and making sure that he was taking all opportunities to do so?
Did I really just bust on this entire assembly?
Yes. I did.
It hit me like a ton of bricks this morning.
I'm over it.
Over the whole thing.
I want my kids to be successful. I want my kids to be happy. I want my kids to pursue their dreams. I want my kids to meet their goals.
But it is not my job to MAKE them BE successful.
How shall I know what makes them truly happy? Only they know that.
Pursuing dreams and meeting goals - well, those are their achievements or disappointments to own. Their achievements and disappointments do not dictate whether I am a good parent or not. I think that is a misconception that many parents find has crept into their parenting at some point.
I have my own journey in life.
My own journey has made me the mom of four great kids.
It is my job to raise them.
To parent them.
Parent them with my opinions and values.
By speaking to them with what I would do if I were them.
By guiding them with what I feel is right.
But trying to force myself upon them will never work.
Anything they really want in life has to come from their own attempt.
It is my job to love them.
Love them even if they are lazy.
Love them even if they're irresponsible.
Love them when they make poor choices.
Love them when their grades are not the highest.
Love them when they fall short because they just didn't try.
Love them when they look back with regret.
Love them when they realize life didn't turn out the way they had hoped.
Yes, I can see all of the wonderful things that they COULD be.
But I can't let those things get in the way of loving who they already are.
Because when I peel away society's expectations, or my own insecurities - there is already so much to love about them.
I never want them to feel like what they are isn't enough for me.
I just want them to be sure that what they are - is enough for them.
"Motivation is a fire from within. If someone else tries to light that fire under you, chances are it will burn very briefly." ~ Stephen R. Covey