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  • You're not too old, and it's never too late

Monday, November 10, 2014

Aspiring to not be That Parent

My husband and I took our daughter to visit some colleges last week and guess what I learned? Just how self-absorbed I can be.

Sheesh, Aim, I kept thinking to myself. This is not about you!

I’m ashamed to admit how often envy reared its ugly, snarly green head as we ambled around picturesque New England campuses. I found myself belaboring the fact that I didn’t try my hardest in high school, that I could have worked harder and perhaps gone to a better school and been a writer earlier in life. If only, swam through my mind more than once. If only I’d have been a better student. If only I’d have been more disciplined. If only I’d have been more honest with myself and everyone else about how much I loved writing.

But that would have meant that I’d have been open and honest with everyone in my life rather than keeping my writing dreams to myself. It would have meant a whole revision of my personal history. Things happen for a reason, I had to remind myself. Still, it was hard not to imagine how my life would have turned out differently had I not been such a goofball in high school.

Of course these excursions are about our daughter—what schools she likes, where she wants to spend the next four years of her life and what she wants to study. But it was hard not to think about my own college experience and what I would have done differently. It was hard not to fall into the trap of if only.

I hear stories now about how other parents push their kids to go to certain schools. I’ve also seen it in subtle hints parents drop so their kids think they might want a certain school. My husband and I won’t push our daughter towards any one school, but I get it. I think it’s because we parents have lived longer, experienced more of life and because we have regrets—regrets that we didn’t do as well as we could have. Regrets that we didn’t do our best, and now, our kids are doing better than we ever did and we want them to have what we could not. We’re riding along with them, experiencing the highs of good grades and honor rolls, things some of us may not have experienced during our own high school tenures, and it’s exhilarating. Then you think, wow, with these grades we can get into some great schools! (Look at how I’ve already switched into using “we” instead of “she.” God, I’m incorrigible).  I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying I get it.

This trip was good for me in that it’s the first step (well, one of the first steps) in my letting go of my baby. I actually feel better now that we’ve gone to see a few schools. It has eased some of the angst I’ve been feeling about her preparing to leave home.

I’m going to try hard to keep this in mind over the next year and a half. I don’t want to be the parent who exerts her influence in order to manipulate her child into making a decision “mom” would have made had she had it to do over. I won’t be the parent who says, “You have to apply here” or “We won’t pay for you to go to that school.”

This is a picture of me and my daughter at the school I would love for her to attend, but I digress....

My daughter has always made sound decisions when it has come to friends and activities, so I trust that she will choose the school that best suits her needs and temperament. It’s part of my letting go of her—trusting that she will make the best decision for herself. She’s already off to a better start than I was at her age, so I’m going to try and sit back and chill out. I’m going to tag along as best I can—be it right beside her, or via Face Time and Skype. It’s bound to be a great ride.