Whether it’s worrying about grades or concerns about them making the right choices, parents of Middle Schoolers have a lot on their minds. The following is a letter our Head of Middle School, Mrs. Carla Moyer, recently wrote to our parents to assuage some of those fears.
I’m a survivor. A survivor of parenting adolescents. I’ve come out on the other end mostly unscathed, and I have more brown hair than grey. And while I never stop thinking about my kids, the daily worry is a thing of the past. I’ve heard many experts say that it is harder to be a teen in 2018 than ever before, so the mathematician in me logically concludes that must mean it is much harder to be a parent in 2018. How on earth do we navigate everything there is to consider when raising our kids?
I recently took a very unscientific poll of parents and asked what worries them. I asked what keeps them up at night, and within a few hours I had long list of things. The list made me wonder if any of my friends are getting any sleep! I’m sure you know the list– mental health issues surrounding technology, social interactions and healthy relationships, safety in all that they do, the dangers of substance abuse, just to name a few. Frankly, it is an overwhelming and exhausting list.
Add to this list the things we wonder about. Will our kids make the “right” decisions when we are not there to help? Will they be able to handle with confidence whatever situation arises? Will they be resilient, bouncing back from disappointment and challenges? Will their family values and their faith development continue to guide their moral compass? All of these things leave us wondering if we are “good” parents. Are we doing it right, whatever that means?
Consider all of the things our kids have to think about on a daily basis. Will adding our worries to theirs be helpful? I don’t think so. While we may never stop worrying, at some point, we just have to trust. We have to trust that our kids are “picking up what we are putting down” even when they roll their eyes or slam a door. We have to trust that their upbringing will guide their decisions and that even bad decisions can be handled. We have to trust the “village” that surrounds our kids at home, at school, at summer camp, and at the travel tournament. (I will tell anyone who listens that one of the best things we ever did as parents was to let others help us.) Yes, the news will have us believing that we can’t trust anyone, but we simply can’t raise kids without putting some of the work in the hands of others.
I decided to go straight to the experts on my parenting–my age 20-something kids. I asked what things we worried about that we didn’t really need to focus on, and I asked what they appreciated. One of their responses is below.
“You had no reason to worry about our choices with social media or alcohol. You raised us well before those points, and you had taught us enough before to make good choices. You also had no reason to worry about grades. We cared plenty about our own grades and were doing the best that we could. I don’t think you put any unnecessary pressure on us for anything. Maybe grades? But definitely not after I left for school.”
“I appreciate the focus that you have put on our education. I have appreciated how much you support us in all that we care about/new things that we want to try. You have always encouraged me to try new things and haven’t cared what we do, so long as we are passionate about it. It was also clear that your few frustrations with us came from a place of love.”
Grade pressure? Guilty. This comment was from my youngest, but my oldest may have taken more of the brunt of the worry and pressure. I’ve come a long way. But honestly, I’m pleased with this response. While there were times we felt really, really good about how we handled something with our kids, never did we feel like we were “crushing it.” We were certain that we loved our kids unconditionally, we were present and there for them even when we were busy, and we owned our mistakes along the way. I would guess that most of us would be happy to receive the response above from our kids when all is said and done, and I’ll bet you that you will. Eventually, if not right away. And that’s ok, too.
I wish I could give you the perfect advice on parenting in this wonderfully crazy world we live in. I wish I could tell you I did it all “right” and none of my worries came to light. I wish I could tell you not to worry about anything. I can’t. Worry comes with the job, and there is no manual. Let’s face it–none of us knew what we were doing when we met our children for the very first time. We figured it out one day at a time. I will tell you that we did (and are doing) our best. I know you are doing your best. And that doesn’t mean being perfect, and it doesn’t mean you are always right. I do know that we are all in this together, and I’m honored to be by your side as we do our best to love all of these kids each day.
So in the words of one of my favorite songs from my favorite band, you need to give yourself a break.
As hard on yourself
please pardon yourself,
Do the best you can
and that won’t go unseen.
-The Avett Brothers, “Please Pardon Yourself”