Friday, September 25, 2009

Promises Hard to Keep

Before Kyle started school this year, I had a serious talk with him. I asked him if he wanted me to help him keep on track with his work load, gently pushing him to stay focused on his dream to do his best at school. I hate this job and hoped that he would tell me that he neither wanted my help nor did he need it. But, he asked if I would continue to support him as he tries to balance all the many splendid activities of a sixteen-year-old boy.

This has is proven harder than I ever expected.

Last night was Back to School Night at his high school. I attended all his classes and listened to engaged parents and enthusiastic teachers for an evening that left me exhausted and confused. Immediately I was struck at how bright the parents were. There was no way I could keep up with the distinguished parent body and well educated teachers. I thought instantly, that I indeed was not helping Kyle in the most basic way--I had single handedly brought down the gene pool in our family.

But Kyle works hard. He wants to do well and go to a college of his choice.

I want Kyle to have a balanced life filled with girlfriends, goofing around with buddies, community service, political activism, being silly, having fun--basically being a kid and figuring who he is and what he loves to do. I want him to work hard and enjoy learning but not at the expense of living.

Kyle wants to go to a good college but doesn't want to give up the things he loves that take him away from his schoolwork. He has asked me to help him juggle this. And I don't know how.

Kyle wants to get good grades because he wants to have some choice as to where he attends college. Colleges care about grades. So, Kyle too must care about his grades. I am thankful that Kyle is blessed by teachers who are demanding Kyle to think deep and explore. But doesn't he need a more balanced life in order to fully process the level of thought expected of him? And how can he have that if doing well means getting an 'A?' Doesn't getting an 'A' mean hours of endless study and less time for the things that a sixteen-year-old boy needs to do in order to have a healthy, balanced life.

I am attending a seminar at Stanford this weekend centered around kids and stress. I hope they offer some insight into a problem that I feel is bigger than just me and Kyle. I think, so many of us feel the same frustrations as we try to help our children reach goals that might not be in their best interest.

When Kyle was in second grade, he was a little nervous about his first standardized test. I told him not to worry and just enjoy making pretty patterns with his penciled bubbles. As he gets ready for all the standardized tests ahead of him I wish I could offer him the same advice. In the end, does it really matter?

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