Let It Be Parenting
Today I was looking over the New York Times Bestseller list and something popped out at me: How Children Succeed. I rolled my eyes and, because I can be a bit of a jerk, I clicked over to Amazon eagerly anticipating my annoyance that yet another “guru” was recommending flash cards, private schools and whatever else they recommend these days. Here we go, I thought, prepare to feel inadequate.
Before I clicked over, I couldn’t see the subtitle. The full title is: “How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.” Huh, no flash cards and no test scores? You mean Tiger Mom may have it completely wrong? The key to success may not be overextended schedules and helicoptering? What a concept.
I have often felt overwhelmed by what other parents have and do for their children. A past friend once spent more on kindergarten for her child than I make in two years. Yes, of course her child would grow to become a well-adjusted adult with a lovely family and cushy career. My child — on the other hand — would be doomed to a life of, well, being like me: chasing, scraping, and working hard; hoping that it pays off.
Gah! Please do not let that happen, Universe.
When my daughter hit first grade, I learned she was struggling to read. Her kindergarten teacher never told me she was having difficulty. I read to my daughter every night at bedtime after she ditched the bottle at a year old. Her library was overflowing and, sheesh, I was a writer. The library was one of our favorite places. I never thought my daughter would need a team of educators and lots of hard work to read fluently.
No one told me when she was a tiny infant swaddled in a white blanket with pink and blue stripes that her report cards would be marginal, but her effort would be off the charts. No one told me that she would be able to draw or be the most thoughtful child in a room either.
My family does not have a pool of limitless resources. They didn’t have it for me and I do not have it for my daughter. What she does have that I, in a way did not, is a model of perseverance, of not giving up, of facing crushing blows; and holding on to the will to stand up and try again. Those are the things that cannot be measured on a test.
So when I hear about a book that accounts for character rather than perfection, I can get behind it. I don’t want my daughter to be perfect, I want her to be who she is: thoughtful and artistic, funny and kind. I don’t want all of those amazing traits pushed so low that she can’t find them underneath an algebraic equation she will never use and struggled mightily to learn.
I don’t need a fancy school or flashcards for that. I don’t even need to feel inadequate. I just have to let her be.
Image via Flickr: LibAmanda