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April 10, 2016

How to raise an adult

I'm reading a book that my therapist lent me called, 'How To Raise An Adult.'  (It's true, writing a blog can be therapeutic but at times I seek more reliable help).  I'm still waiting to discover why he suggested this book to me.  So far I have very little in common with the parents the writer encounters.

Homework:  There are detailed stories about parents who do their kids' homework, or constantly check their kids' grades online.  The alarming anecdotes weren't new to me.  I've witnessed plenty of over involved parents mishandling their kids' school work.  I can't imagine carving out time to investigate each of my kid's progress at school on a regular basis.  I rarely get involved in my kids' homework.  I ask them if they have completed their homework before they go outside to play or invite a friend over.  If they say 'yes', when in fact they haven't -then I expect they will find themselves up a creek with their teachers.  My kids' homework pages fail to suck me in.  I don't fret about what's coming down the pike in terms of large assignments.  Checking over their completed papers isn't something I concern myself with either. 

Over the years, I have encountered parents who get their undies in a bunch over big tests, involved tasks, and group projects.  They freak out over teacher expectations.  I've overheard them quiz other homework-obsessed parents at social functions as to whether or not their offspring have completed something weeks ahead of schedule.  Mini has a friend who has called her before to ask for homework help.  Afterwards Mini scrunched her face up in a tight, confused knot.  'Why was Freaky Friend's mom telling her what to ask me?' she wondered.  'Did she also do the back side of the page?  Was she able to use the chart in the book to answer the additional worksheet?' Mini proceeded to imitate Freaky Friend's mom.  I've encountered this mom fretting about how her high school son couldn't take the free bus to school.  It didn't allow him enough time to get to his locker before his first class.  She ended up driving him to school every day.  How about if Freaky Friend's brother figures out how to march into the office and explain his transportation struggles?  Nuts.

College preparation:  Parents who concentrate so much energy on getting little Johnny accepted to a top notch college is another focus of this book.  Again, not us.  Coach and I plan to send all of our kids to college, but we hope that they find a school that offers a good academic program balanced with their other interests.  Our top concern is the school's affordability.  Some of our kids are more academically motivated than others.  The good news is that there is a college available for all of them.  Of course, we have limited experience because we have only prepared for our oldest to attend college in the fall.  Over the past few years, we may have encouraged Laddie to consider strong extra curricular choices and challenging classes in order to impress colleges, but there were limits to what he had time for and what he was interested in.  The kid is who he is, so we avoided jumping thru hoops or arranging special opportunities to present him as a genius with future Nobel Peace Prize aspirations. 

A few months ago I cringed when I crossed paths in the grocery store with a mom named Ms. Bucks.  Her son, Big Bucks Junior, had attended grade school with Laddie.  This is a woman who once demonstrated incredibly poor taste at a school picnic when our boys were in about 6th grade.  Ms. Bucks' older daughter was interested in becoming a physical therapist.  She brought the topic up to a group of moms that we were chatting with because she knew that Coach was a PT.  Ms. Bucks said to me, 'Well, Gigi wants to become a physical therapist, but my research shows that the salary cap is around $60,000.  Is that true?  That isn't a very substantial form of income.'  It took all of my strength not to describe how our rather large family was surviving by the sheer generosity of friends and the aid of food stamps.  Ms. Bucks stood there expecting me to reveal how we were getting by.  She was blind to the fact that she had just outed my husband's paycheck as being crappy.  In the same breath she revealed that this undesirable pay scale would never satisfy her daughter's expensive taste. 

Now she approached me and began to question me about where Laddie was going to college.  Our sons go to different high schools, and we don't socialize in the same circle (shocking), so I hadn't seen her in quite awhile.  'I don't know yet,' I answered flatly.  The last thing I needed was her commenting on Laddie's small school choices, but later I decided that it looked like I had something to hide.  'Big Bucks Junior is headed to Michigan State,' she quipped - but she was clearly not done.  'That's been his dream since he was in grade school.  He's very excited.  Of course, it's nice that they gave him an incredible package too.'  I wondered if I should alert the grocery store staff to a potential clean up in isle 5 . . . before I puked?  Why didn't I have the nerve to ask if Big Bucks Junior had learned in high school how to make eye contact when conversing with adults?  My son may not be headed to a big 10 school, but he already knows how to communicate with adults.

Ironically I bumped into her again on Monday in the same grocery store - different isle.  We had just returned from visiting the two schools Laddie is trying to decide between.  I'm excited about the colleges Laddie has narrowed his search down to.  Either would be a good fit for him.  Coach and I still wish he would play water polo at a school in Pennsylvania, but he is more interested in football. The two schools in Iowa are closer to home, so the logistics will be more manageable.  Anyway, I marched right up to Ms. Bucks and told her which schools he was deciding between, that he would be playing football, and that we wished he would consider a career in water polo.  After all, I added, 'He's an outstanding water polo player.'  Two can play, but since I am not blind to her agenda - I felt that I won.

I'm not done reading the book yet.  While I consider myself an old school parent capable of avoiding over parenting pitfalls, I know there are modern, unhealthy bad habits and trends that I have fallen into.  Perhaps the author will touch on my issues at the end of the book.  Maybe there is a chapter that covers how not to care what other mothers (like Ms. Bucks) think about you and your kid.  I suppose I should read ahead before my next grocery visit. 

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