December 5, 2009

Parenting 2.0, or: The Helicopter Has Landed

Thanksgiving has come and gone.  My kids are not quite half way through their junior year of high school.  PSAT scores are wending their way to the house.  If only Harry Potter’s Hedwig would deliver the College Board’s first official judgment, infusing a bit of fun and magic here at the starting gate of Upper Middle Class College Admissions Hysteria (to be followed later by Upper Middle Class Wedding Hysteria).   Anxiety has predictably been rising this autumn. Grades on tests and papers have seemed even more important than ever.  And I decided yesterday after a particularly awful week of UMCCAH that I am resigning from my role as Nagger-in-Chief.  I mean it.  I quit.

I don’t want to compromise kids’ privacy, so I won’t tell you much about what’s been going on. Suffice it to say that I have reached a point where I am convinced that the best thing I can do is butt out. The supports are in place.  So are the consequences.  If I write here that I truly don’t care if the kids start college in 2011, will you believe me?  If I tell you that I honestly do not care where they go, will you think I’m just trying to sound a little boho chic?  It matters to me that they find something they can work hard at and that they find people who will love them.  I care that they are able to live independently and that they are physically and mentally sound.  It would be really nice if they’d love each other and want to come home for Thanksgiving.  And anything beyond that is, well, gravy.

What does this mean on a practical level?  I haven’t been getting anyone out of bed in the mornings for almost a year. Best step I ever took. From here on out, I’m not going to ask when papers are due, if anyone has studied for a test, if they’ve got the poster board they need for an upcoming project.  Yesterday was the first day of my new life, and as soon as I’d made my resolve, I was able to sit down and write half a script for a radio piece.  My heart slowed a few beats.  I told my kids about my plan, and we had an honest discussion.  We sat down to supper — late.  They looked across the table at me and smiled.

I’m getting the kids ready for college.  Not by writing essays for them (which I would never do anyway).  Not by reminding them to fill out forms.  Not by shoving SAT course prep books down their throats.  I’m getting them ready to assume responsibility for themselves and their actions. Of course, if they ask me for help, that’s a whole different matter.