If you know me, and I am guessing you do, at some level, if you are reading this… you know my kids have both struggled with school. Meaning, they have both failed a grade at some point and also been tested for gifted and also felt like they just don’t care about grades and school.
I grew up in a home where honestly, that was probably my greatest contribution. I got great grades. I rolled up with things memorized moments before class. I always had things done. I didn’t care if I was first or second, but I was always on the board. The absence of that need to show up for grades is foreign to me. I can barely even comprehend. I wasn’t willing to stay up all night or get the extra 20 points. But I definitely knew I wanted the grade.
My kids care about neither, either or none of the things I just said I cared about. The last level of education I achieved…. a Master’s degree. Fuck. They don’t care if they finish high school. And that’s not me exaggerating. That’s full reality.
Neither of my parents finished college. My mom has an Associates degree, I believe. But even I don’t know. And maybe that drove me. To be more. To be educated. To prove we could do it. But then, I have two brilliant children. And neither wants to succeed in any way educationally. And when you have both children respond to something like that, well, it’s a parenting thing.
And I wish I could blame this on my ex husband, but it’s not his fault in totality.
But it’s a delightful mix of the time in our history, the fact that both of my kids’ parents are educated and somewhat successful at different levels. It’s the experience of not wanting for much, seeing they have a lot, but then also wondering why they can’t have certain things. It’s wondering what kind of life is available to them if neither of their parents’ lives ring true to their desires or needs.
And so today, I wanted to write this for my Zoom, my 14 year old. I search for reasons you do not want to succeed in school, in life. And I see your mind, your cleverness, your wit, the incredible pace of your thoughts and feelings, the poignancy of your chosen words, the way you are both the clown and the keeper of sanity. I see the way you analyze and pretend you don’t care. I see the way you seek to succeed and back away quickly and silently if you don’t immediately master something.
I see both greatness and fear and humility and arrogance. And they dance about you frivolously. And I hear other moms with kids your age, and I hear something the same, something different, but themes that resonate.
How have we failed you as parents, as society, as caregivers, as models, as mentors? How have we given you no hope or drive to meet the needs of education? And it struck me! Whatever the greater problem in the world, you have the bravery I never had, my person, my generation, my religion of youth. We didn’t fight the system! I didn’t fight the system. I didn’t say with my soul…. “This doesn’t work for me!”
For a couple reasons… I would have gotten my ass kicked. I didn’t want to fail because that’s all I had to identify with, when everything was stripped of me. I didn’t have the same bravery to think there might be something else. And well, I think you’re brave. Not for failing. But yes, for failing. Not for making your own path, and yet, yes! You have created a path amongst the mess of a world you are living in. Not for your anxiety and fear and nonchalance and arrogance and complete lack of conformity. But then, for every single one of those things! I WISH I knew how to see those things and walk towards them and be brave enough to defy anyone who had expectations of me. I wish I knew how to define myself at so young an age, at the judgment and behest of anyone who does or doesn’t love me. I am in awe of the way you continue to move forward without a plan and yet knowing that although you may not know all of who you are, you will fight to the death for who you want to see, to be.
I respect you, son. Not for failing certain classes, but for knowing that failing doesn’t define you. For knowing that amidst all the things you don’t know, you won’t bend or bow to just anything. I am so proud of the way you have handled your dysfunctional family. Not because you have been respectful always, but because despite all you’ve seen and lived, you still say the most profound things that show me you are paying attention the whole time. You have shown me that your heart is still intact. And that you have all the greatness inside you that you do or do not need. And that every battle you endure is you knowing how important that sense of self is, that’s it’s what you need.
In essence, I see that you are using your teenage years for exactly what they’re meant for. And it isn’t easy for me some days to be strong enough to know it isn’t personal. And I have had to grow more from your youth than I can tell you. BUT I wouldn’t change you for anything. I want you to continue to fight, to be passionate about something, to search for your meaning! And although I won’t tell you this directly today…. I can’t wait to see what or where this path leads you, because I couldn’t possibly know.
I will stand my ground, and I will model my best integrity, my willingness to grow and know more about families and love and parenting. I will show up every single day I am with you, to provide the “needs” you have as a human being. I will hug you and love you even when you think it’s stupid. And I will hold you accountable for every disrespectful word and action you exhibit. And I will support you in every single way I can imagine.
And we will fight. And we will grow. And we will hurt. And we will be family. And that’s everything that matters. So some days when you feel defeated… And some days when I do too… whether or not those days coincide, I want you to know, I loved you all the days. I believe in you most of the days. And I will make the most of every single moment I get with you. You are the most amazing creation because of you. And I hope more than anything, that you become the best version of you.