My friend always reminds me to parent from a place of love, not fear. And I’m finding that very difficult these days.
Is it okay to let your child drop out of the rat race when she’s 10? Is it fine if she just wants to read books and climb trees and play Minecraft and Terraria and go roller skating? I imagine her college application and my chest tightens. She has no great love for sports and social clubs and after-school activities. And by “no great love” I mean “antipathy”. She’s taken piano since she was five. Once a week for 30 minutes. When I suggested last year that we add another activity, she wailed at me, “I’m overscheduled as it is! You’re always forcing me to do things I don’t want to do.”
It was her idea to homeschool. The idea of getting up when you want to and reading books all day, every day was heaven to her. Nobody telling you what to do! You can eat when you want!
I weigh my options: give her a nudge because she’s nervous and it’s outside her comfort zone, or let her be because she knows who she is and what she likes?
She’ll be competing against kids who have never had down time in their life. Who have sung their hearts out and played on all-stars and spent weekends knitting booties for homeless children. All those madly grinning extroverts out in the world. Against my self-contained little girl. And I worry that it doesn’t matter that she has straight A’s and languidly aces her way through her state standard tests. I’m worried it’s not enough anymore.
I read an article that said kids these days need a hook to get into college. Good grades and test scores, of course, but also a cherry on top: founding a charity that tutors kids after school or creating stop-motion animation films in your bedroom. Honestly, doesn’t that sound exhausting? And what about all those kids who graduate from law school and work at jobs they hate, only to drop out when they’re 40 because they’re finally going to follow their dream and open a burger shack at the beach?
I’ve always tried to recognize who my children are and follow their curves and not try to engineer them into straight lines. I believed that if I supported their elemental nature, acceptance would turn their flaws into strengths. But that was when I was more confident and came from a place of love, not fear. Toni Morrison wrote that the Mississippi doesn’t flood, it remembers. It remembers where it was. I want my children to remember who they are.
I just need someone to tell me it’s okay.