Sometimes It’s Just in Your Head
I spent most of the last two days talking my middle child off an educational ledge.
Well, let’s face it, both daughters.
When I was a kid you went to school, thought about what you wanted to do for college, but that wasn’t drilled, every day, every minute, into your head. For my kids that’s changed. Maybe it’s the competitive nature of our educational system. (They do feel secondary to just about every other country, I get it) Maybe they’re honestly trying to give our kids good preparation for life.
But when you’re a freshman in high school, telling them they need to know now what they’re going to do for the rest of their lives is . . . well, too much pressure. Guide them. Prod them. Ask them questions. Don’t demand answers at the age of 14 about what they’re going to do for a career for the rest of their lives.
I work with a ton of journalists who, to be honest, never went to school for journalism. I know a lot of PR people that have journalism degrees and were once reporters. I was married to a woman who was a reporter and then went back to school and became a pharmacist. So when my oldest is wondering if she likes other things, not just theater or drama . . . it’s fine. It’s okay. This is the age to try things out, cook the spaghetti, throw it at the wall and see what sticks.
My middle was stressed beyond belief because she wanted to get into an honors class and the teachers were drilling into them what this meant for college credit and what it would do for their future and . . . in the end it just made her face get more pimples and kept her up. All . . . night . . . long. That, in turn, kept me up all…night…long. If your kids worry, you certainly worry.
Look . . . three years ago, before losing my wife, I might have dug in, done the work, and helped lay on the pressure. Today, not so much. I left one type of job, a newsroom manager, and went back into the field. I became a writer and write every week for a parenting website. I met new people and made new friends. I shoot other things on my own and make documentaries and I’m a musician. Nothing says that when you graduate high-school you’re screwed so – damn you – better pick what makes you satisfied now or you’re stuck!
So when my daughter was freaking out last night . . . I asked her:
“What happens if you don’t get into the honors class.”
“I take the advanced class.”
“Okay . . . something wrong with that? Does the teacher suck? Do you hate the material?”
“No. . . everyone says the teacher’s awesome.”
“So what’s the worst could happen?”
“I take advanced. I just want to get into the honors class!”
So I informed her I knew she had the skills and ability to get into honors. It’s not whether she can, it’s the self-destructive stress she was putting on herself. The stakes aren’t her life . . . they’re what she wants. If she wants it she should study and work hard. If she’s doing it because everyone tells her she should . . . then she’ll never do it as well because her heart’s not in it.
Tonight, as it’s over, her stressed hunching of the shoulders has gone away. Her face cleared up a little. She’s happier.
It’s done. If I get in, great, but if not . . . there’s always next year. I was just stressing myself out.
“Yep,” I informed her, pulling the hair out of her eyes for the millionth time. “Sometimes it’s just in your head.”