Accepting the one ya' got

Last night, we went to high school prep night at the school, put on by the PTA.  Our PTA president is fantastic.  She's unpolished, but certainly there and busy and devoted as all get out.  She spoke for a while, including her own story of raising twin sons who are in college now.  Then, there was a lady from a tutoring company that came in and gave a really good talk on good study habits.  After that, the counselors from the two high schools that our middle school students will feed into spoke.  They were both good speakers as well, different in their presentation as their schools are.

After I heard all that, my first thoughts were, I'm going to work my rear end off, just trying to keep grades up.  I'm going to have to argue and threaten and give consequences.  And, Rob's going to be right there with me and we are not going to like it.  And, it will make our lives harder. 

I thought about it some more and I realized that a lot of that could be avoided if we reduced the challenge.  If we accepted that our student is not going to be a doctor of nuclear physics with a secondary degree in applied spacecraft mathematics, working as the sole designer of the new NASA "take us to Pluto" space vehicle.  Or even probably a lawyer.  I want her to do better than me.  I want her to have a fun job.  I want her to like what she does and if she doesn't like it, to have the opportunity to change to whatever she would like.  And, I'd like her to enjoy high school.  Oh, not too much.  Not smokin' in the girls room fun.  Not even a cheerleader or the rockin' party girl.  But, having time to work on the homecoming float, not being restricted from spring dance, being able to play sports, kind of fun.  With good grades and a happy homelife. 

And, that likely means dropping some of the advanced placement classes. 

I say that without one word of regret for how hard we have pushed her up to this point.  We gave her challenges and she has met them.  And, she has struggled against her own proclivity to play too much and she has borne with our pushing and challenging and trying to get her to "want to" do better in school.  To "want to" make better grades.  To "want to" not be on restriction.  To "want to" get her ipod back. 

So what if she excels in regular classes.  Isn't that better than stumbling and fighting along in advanced classes? 

Isn't it better to accept who she is and let her exceed her own expectations? 

I know, going into this, that she does not have the organization or study skills yet.  Last night, she watched me take notes at the event and I asked her if she know how to do that.  And, she doesn't.  And, that's not really my fault.  I mean, I have a life, too, and I can't know everything she needs because she will not tell me because if she tells me, I'll do something about it and that means more work for her and she just doesn't..."want to"...

Are ya' gettin' me here? 

I know some of you are.  I've read it on your own blogs.  You've watched kids stumble and you've adjusted your expectations.  And, having been with us for 5 years, what we're looking at now, is the kid we raised.  It's not the kid we got 5 years ago who couldn't read and was far behind and had no concept of consistency and expectations.  We changed all that and now, she's the kid we'd want to have, even when she's a pain in the arse.  I wouldn't change her personality, just to get her to study. 

We've challenged her up til now and maybe it's time to let our instincts play instead of our expectations.  We've seen that she is an average student in advanced classes.  Imagine how much she should be able to excel in regular classes.  So long as we keep up the pressure and give her as many reasons to "want to" as we can.  Because if she ever thinks that we'll let her be average in regular classes, we're sunk. 

So, there is some danger in reducing the expectations.  I guess we'll just have to see.  I asked her what classes she'd rather have as regular and she said math and history.  That means she'd keep science and english.  I think I can live with that.

And, Rob and I are talking about it.  Neither of us wants to let go of the comfy retirement that our nuclear physicist could give us.  But, I think we're both tired of the constant battle for higher grades.

Have a great Tuesday. 



Laura said...

I think you are making the right choice in letting your daughter have some control in her academic life. It is so hard knowing when to push and when to hang back, and every child is different. You want to send a self-sufficient child off to college, not one who has to be prodded along. Your daughter is lucky to have you, and one day, when she has her own teenager, she will fully realize it!

Auntie Em said...

Minimizing her academic challenges does not mean you have stopped challenging her to always try her best.

You and Rob are doing an awesome job with Sydney.

Churn Dash said...

With one kid you only have to make these choices once. I regret making our younger son go to the same high school as his brother. When his brother graduated he asked to go to the other high school which is the one we are zoned for and not the magnet school. He brought home two f's at the last interim which had us concerned. The teachers complained that he didn't hand in work. Well, they've been telling us that since he was five, it's no great surprise. I think he was upset at the grades and has worked hard to bring them up. When he was younger he would just shrug it off, so it's good to see him trying harder.

Sometimes I get tired of hearing how wonderful other friend's children or grand children are. My boys are doing the best they can, I can't make them try harder I can only encourage them.

A guy who works with my husband has a son at UVA. Every time exams are coming up he goes to spend time helping his son to study. The boy is 20 now, I believe. I wonder if he will go to work with the boy when he graduates.

The way you work to give Sydney a strong home situation is admirable. She is a lucky girl.


lw said...

While I agree that it's better not to push too hard, if Sydney wants to do anything with science, she'd be better off keeping the math class and having you hire a tutor to teach her the tips and tricks that can get her through it without breaking a sweat.

That said, it might be a good idea to see if one of the local colleges has a career personality assessment to see what direction would be a good one to start with.

Impera_Magna said...

I work in the school system.... I wish every parent was as wise as you!

Marla said...

I think you are making the right choice. My exerience: I have two children. My son is almost 28 and works in Staples in the copy area. He has a degree in economics after making excellent grades in high school. Never has used it. Afraid to try for more. I used to think he would be a lawyer. Now he is thinking about going back to school to be a nurse but I have heard it several times before and he won't get off his duff to do anything about it. My daughter was a mess in high school. Had to hound her all the time to keep her grades up enough to just graduate. She also went to college but had a hard time the first couple of years. Then she settled down more and made an effort. She has a degree in public relations/marketing and has high goals for herself. I also have a brilliant stepdaughter who could be a nuclear scientist if she wanted to but has no ambition. She even won a 4 year all paid for scholarship to U of I in Champaign, IL which she never used. She is a waitress at a truck stop now. So, I guess my rambling is just to give you comfort that you simply don't know what your daughter will end up doing in the long run. Yes... a lot of it falls on the parent but most of it comes from the individual person to what they want to do with their lives. Remember the old saying "you can take a horse to water but you can't make him drink it."

Linda in TX said...

I hear you. I get it. And, as a grandmother now, I totally agree with you.

Samantha said...

Good for you - these are hard (but wise) decisions.

I worked as a lead instructor / do-it-all girl for one of the major tutoring chains for years - please do not hesitate to contact me (email is in my profile) about helping her learn some organization / note taking skills (and I can discuss with you what you can do as a parent). I fully believe that school should not be harder than it actually is, yet a lot of parents/students make it that way.

Cynthia L. said...

Lane, Sydney is so lucky to have you and Rob as parents. You are always willing to look at things through different eyes. It is important to push children, but only so far. They can push back harder! She will grow up and be fine at whatever she does. My daughter is a Junior in college this year and she has chosen a degree that will make her happy, but not a lot of money. The most important thing, in my mind, is that our children know they are loved! Keep it up!

Tanit-Isis said...

My kids both have learning differences, and it's been tough accepting that they're just not going to be straight-A students (which is what I was). And it's so tough finding the balance between pushing them to do their best, without having unreasonable expectations that just foster disappointment.

I think you've made a good call here and the fact that Sydney wants to keep the advanced classes for some subjects suggests that she's not just interested in slacking off. I don't think she's alone in starting high school with zero study skills---I don't think I had any until University, when I finally took a class in it.

Good luck to all of you---negotiating family through adolescence is tough on the best. :)