Monday, February 25, 2013

I envy parents of "those kids" more than the parents of the "good kids"

I used to be so envious of the parents of those kids. You know, "those kids." The ones who play high school football. Who are regulars on the honor roll. Who have the lead in the play, or whose team goes to State, or who are recognized for their prolific musical talents. Who are already taking pre-college level courses because they want to get a jump on whatever magnificent thing they want to be at whatever prestigious university so they are studying their asses off in order to get a stellar ACT score.

I see pictures these proud parents post on Facebook - and rightly so. Usually it's a photo of some kid holding a trophy or  medal or certificate and smiling, sometimes with his arms around his mom and/or dad. So proud.

I always think to myself, a) What are these parents doing that I'm not doing and b) what is the difference between these kids and my kid and c) does it really matter and d) Why do I assume that these adults are such better parents than I am just because their kids are "successful" and e) am I that shallow that this really bothers me?

I'm beginning to think that the parents I should model myself after are the ones who raise tough kids. Kids who aren't on the sports team, or in the band, or the play. The parents of the kids not on the honor roll, and who don't like having their pictures taken with their parents - anytime. The kids who may test the boundaries of their parents' rules by breaking them on a regular basis. Because I'm one of those parents. And I don't know why. I feel like I have done everything a good parent is supposed to do - I don't know what I've done differently than all the "successful" kids' parents. I have a good kid at the heart; I just wonder what it takes to be like those "other" families.

It's kind of like before you had kids, you'd see that crying toddler in the store and look at his mom and think, "Why can't she quiet that kid?" Same thing now. Sometimes I wonder if people look at my teenager and think, "What didn't she do that made him act the way he acts?" "He's so smart - why doesn't he apply himself?" "He's so good looking - but what's with that hair?" Maybe they don't. Although he doesn't play sports or isn't on the honor roll, he's a nice kid to adults. (And his hair is pretty awesome.) His teachers and others who meet him are generally charmed by him. I've been told he's polite, respectful, insightful and humorous. So I'm doing something right, right?

But what about the rest of it? Will he be that nondescript, long-haired kid in the background of some random lunchroom photo in the yearbook? Will he look back on his teenage years with regret or indifference? What's the ratio of "overachievers" to "underachievers" in high school and the percentage of those who go on to be successful in life? Is he just a late bloomer who's still struggling to find his way? Will he ever turn to the camera, smile and wave and mouth the words, "Hi, Mom!"?

For all the PTOs and room mom meetings and cliques of parents who work concessions at tennis matches and carpool to soccer games and have club parties and whatnot, there should be a mom's group for the kids who are not - or do not. For the moms of kids who are not in sports, or in clubs, or on the honor roll. The moms of good kids who aren't the great kids because they have yet to find their way. For the moms who feel guilty for wanting their kid to be that kid when they should just feel proud of who they are.

For the moms who struggle every day with the decisions their kids continue to make, and the buttons they continue to push. For the moms who lie awake at night worrying about what's going to happen next. Who search their brains for a solution  - of how to stop what's going on. How to "fix" things. How to divert him from a muddy path onto a smooth, paved one. How to be that parent whose kid puts their arm around and smiles for a trophy photo.

My son and me - when he let me hold him.
I know it's a lot to ask. I love my son. I love him so very much. But I'm not a supermom. I've left no stone unturned to try to ignite him a passion for something. Sports. Scholastic. Band. Church. Clubs. Hobbies. Volunteerism. Nothing sticks. And it's tough to see the kids cheering each other on the sidelines at the game, or crowding around each other to solve a problem, or coming together to help someone in need, or attending a youth group event. Because I want so much for that to be my kid. I want so much for him to feel a part of a group; like he belongs to something good and real. Not for me. For him.

But he doesn't. Maybe it's his choice. Maybe I pushed too hard. Maybe I didn't push hard enough. I'll never know. Someday he'll probably have some criticism for my parenting (which I'll give more weight than the criticism he deals out now.) Then maybe I'll gain some insight. In the meantime, my proud moments are when we can laugh in the car together. Or watch TV in the same room. Or sit down to a meal he actually finishes. You know, the small stuff that maybe doesn't warrant a shoutout on Facebook, but makes me sleep well at night nonetheless.

I have a good kid. I'm a good parent. God has something special in store for both of us; he's just not picking right now to show it to us. That's OK - I'll be patient. Even if my son doesn't have faith, I do. Enough for the both of us.


  1. Oh Amy - that spoke directly to my heart! Thanks for writing that one!!!

  2. Good stuff.

    When I was at my first round of High School meetings, getting ready for registration, I though to myself, 'every one of my kids is going to be so different coming through this process'. I get to start with my Overachiever - honors classes, summer school by choice, etc. I am imagining I will finish of those years with a child who will take Fashions and Foods and any class that will just get her by (she claims she wants to be a Cowgirl, but admits that she will probably 'just be a mom'.) (And who knows how the boys will work out...)

    When I look back to my classmates in high school and what they are doing now - the ones who were the 'stars' and overachievers - they all pretty much live ordinary lives (all except the one who I had a huge crush on... he lives in DC and does something with the Endowment of the Arts or something..)

    I figure - if my kids grow up happy and healthy and know that their parents love them - not much else matters. I pray that mine make good choices and that they find their way to what they are to do in life.

  3. Goofy thing wouldn't let me finish...

    Hopefully your boy will find something that clicks for him... his spark... it might take him awhile. (Hopefully not until he's 30 and still living in your basement) :) When he does, he will shine in whatever that is...

  4. I have 3 children and each is so different/unique. They are grown adults now. I remember us worrying about the youngest, she was really quiet and was always in her room studying (not a bad thing, but I worried she would be anti-social) or making crafts. (She made the cutest cut-out lampshade out of paper plates.) She blossomed in college and used her creativity to become a very talented seamstress..she has her own clothing line now. This was an interesting post. It sounds like you have a precious relationship with your son and what a great thing that is.


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