It was an interesting week to reflect on parenting concerns when it comes to helping your child succeed. I had just finished Michele Obama’s autobiography, Becoming on the same day that news broke of the college admissions scandal. Becoming is absolutely amazing, by the way, and I hope people read it even if they aren’t sure how they feel about Obama or his presidency. My point is, I couldn’t help but think about the sharp contrast between the amazing book I’d just read about (a) an African American girl from the South Side of Chicago working her ass off against all odds and expectations versus (b) the rich elite abuse of a system to grant children special privileges beyond their current 1% privilege.
I get it, being a parent is a struggle in many ways. One thing you want more than anything is to help pave a clearer path for your children, giving them opportunities and chances to be great. But there’s a difference between trying to give your child opportunities and cheating the system for purposes of what??? Bragging rights?
We are all reacting to the news with these 50 defendants in a viral news story. Many of us are fuming and pointing out the outrageous privilege and arrogance. But I see a lesson in all of this. If we are outraged by a parent’s extreme move to give their child an advantage, are we checking ourselves and our own motivations for the smaller things we do.
I completely acknowledge that my family is fairly privileged, really. We are middle-class in the 6th wealthiest state in the nation. We live in a diverse community with a wide range of socio-economic and cultural backgrounds. My kids are in a good place. They will have more opportunities available to them. They are already a few steps ahead.
But I want them to do the work, feel and embrace the experiences that are part of the process. I want them to understand that opportunities aren’t gifted, they must be seized.
I don’t foresee an Ivy League school or an MLB option for my kids. But we push them to strive for competitive pride in school and athletics. But, in these arenas, I’m not going to overreach.
I am evaluating myself and my parenting and making my own promises to my family: I won’t bully a teacher into changing a grade. I won’t push school administrators to accept my kid into a program he didn’t qualify for. I won’t chastise a baseball coach for having my kid sit on the bench for 8 innings. I want them to have confidence and ambition, but I want them to own that. I want them to feel responsible for their own efforts and the successes (and failures) that come with it.
I am not a perfect parent. I haven’t mastered any level of this child-raising thing in any way. My children are not picture perfect in every way. But I have my core values here that I am trying to stick to. We are a family unit that will push and support each other and always, always work to have a safe, connected home environment for when they fall, need comfort and warmth. And I will be a momma bear and fight for my kids when I absolutely see fit. But I won’t raise them in a home where cheating is more important than earning and I won’t undermine their own steps in their own path.