Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Parental Peer Pressure

You guys know I watch way too many cartoons.  This one's more adult-oriented though, if there is such a thing.  Bill Cosby's known for being able to put a name to something to help us understand it better, and this is one of those times.  The concept of the day is Parental Peer Pressure.  It exists and its very real.  Think about it - doesn't everyone want to be able to tell other parents about their teenaged child's successes and achievements? 

Here's a for instance:  a coworker's teenaged daughters are very active in school and in sports, are honor roll students, and her older daughter is in her second year at college.  This person is always bragging about a soccer trophy won here, a track record there, a student body election for this one, an honors ceremony for the other one.  It wouldn't be so bad, but this person has sort of a condescending tone that's annoying as heck. 

This person also knows of the troubles my stepdaughter has had academically and with addiction, so they always throw in a "how's your stepdaughter?" as if to rub it in my face a little more.  Yes,  I wish I could still say she was class president or a presidential scholar, but the sorrow I feel is more because of the great amount of potential at risk, the way I can't help her with her addiction, and how I can't fix everything for her and make it all better.  Its also from the fact that everything she suffers through right now is self inflicted and I'm powerless where that's concerned.  It has nothing to do with her father's or mother's parenting skills or failure therein.  Her suffering is ours, because we care for her. 

I'm not big on oneupsmanship - I usually politely bow out of those types of conversations, followed (as I'm walking away) by a big eye roll and a 'whatever'. The exception is with Dan's kids - one of the twins worked with me over the summer and she's just awesome.  Girlfriend wakes up at 5:30 all summer long to start training for track.  That's dedication and its mind blowing and I love it.  She's a wonderful child and I love to hear Dan talk about them.  My best friend's daughter is awesome too - I love hearing about her as well.

My point is - how pathetic that we feel we've got to keep up.  Our kids' successes and failures almost become our own - an extension of us, as well as a measure of how well we've done in the parenthood department.  Its one thing to rejoice in your childs achievements and feel their challenges or struggles - that's a part of the job, I guess - but success isn't always measured that way.  We all wish our kids were class president, or sigma cum laude or soccer stars...we want our kids to do what we didn't or couldn't or wouldn't.  We want to see them succeed and achieve more than we did.  We want them to be smarter and have more common sense. 

I look at my daughters and I see success.  I love watching Kayla draw and paint.  I love seeing her glow at horse shows and listening to her talking about owning a ranch when she grows up.  I love hearing her speak Spanish like her daddy.  She's beautiful and smart, kind, stubborn, a little spoiled (OK maybe a lot spoiled), and amazing.

I just glow when I watch Emily act independently - when she's stubborn and strong, when she refuses to cave in to what other kids her age expect her to like or dislike.  I love it that she listens to the music she listens to, that she'd rather curl up with a book for an afternoon than talk on the phone or watch tv.  I love that she's strong enough to dress the way she wants to, get good grades, and read even if no one else is doing it.  I laugh like crazy when she wears her earrings backwards all week for the heck of it.  I think its awesome that she's confident enough in what she likes and believes in that she doesn't care what others think about her.  She actually told a teacher during a political discussion that our chihuahua would run the country better than Bush, and the teacher laughed.  (I swear she came up with that by herself - I wish I could take credit for it)  Yes, she's an honor roll student and the teachers love her, but she's also passionate, caring, intelligent, beautiful and kind, successful in her own right, and that's enough for me.

So judge away all you soccer moms, my kids rock.  hrmph!

What I want more than anything is for my girls to go out into the world prepared, and kick butt. 

I have a feeling that's exactly what they're gonna do.

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