Journey to the Center of My Pocket Protector (and Beyond)

When I was pregnant forever ago, I dreamed I was observing my daughter as an adolescent, living her daily life, becoming independent. I remember wondering, as I woke up, if I’d ever be able to look at her without being emotionally overwhelmed by love and fear and everything else. I knew I wanted to give her the world, but how? Parenthood seemed like such a symphony of emergencies when I was full-bellied-with-baby.

Then she went to kindergarten.

Began reading.

Discovered her own music.

And, suddenly, she was on auto-pilot — needing me to only serve as a bumper guard for her awkward, burgeoning life. (I’m not fooled, though; this is what I’ve been rehearsing for since my kid was born.)

With the potential for so much sensory overload, it’s important to steer our surly junior high replicas down good paths whether they seem to like it or not. Being a valuable parent is about making choices for our children and then allowing them to choose their own options from there. It’s not rocket science.

Or, maybe, it is partially rocket science.

One of the terrible, horrible, cruel, heartless things I have forced upon my daughter is Math and Science Club. Her hatred toward my decision to make her join that club didn’t phase me in the least because (a) her grades in both classes jumped ten points, and (b) being a parent isn’t about kissing your kid’s ass out of convenience; it’s about doing what is best and realistic for their role in the future world.

Last year, the Math and Science Club was nothing more than a wilting group of parent volunteers and their children, who, for the large part, were forced to attend for the experience. I admit, the whole event was about as exciting as watching nuns sell crushed rock on QVC. (Probably, it was less exciting, even.) Still, I was hellbent on sending my daughter the message that this science and math stuff was serious business, not to be ignored.

This fall, I’m not requiring her to join the Nerd Corps after a heart-to-heart:

Mom, the club is so boring. I am willing to compromise in order to try something different with math and science because it should be more fun than this.

Unable to argue that point, we agreed that she would pick two documentaries a week on the Science Channel or TDC or TLC or PBS or the like and discuss those with us after viewing. In addition, she committed to visiting a museum every month and writing a full essay about a specific point of interest from each trip. I gotta hand it to her: this sounds like a much better way to learn about aliens and numbers and aerogel than taking drill tests, which seem to cover the same safe crap Mr. Watts taught me back in 1985.

As parents, we have the abilities to breed lazy children or to arm their brains with as many wrinkles as it takes in order to maximize their life experiences. I want my kid to be more concerned about Why Pluto is Not a Planet Anymore than which lip gloss to wear. If we teach them what is important, rather than only what is easy, fun, and likely mind-numbing, these kids will begin their journeys from the better places we’ve led them — and led through example and participation.

The cacophony of prenatal uncertainty is gone now, having shifted into established routines with pockets of surprises — some fun, some blood boiling. I wouldn’t say I have unlocked the mystery of how to give my child the world. Instead, I’ve learned it’s my job to teach her that she must earn the world for herself. Otherwise, there is no worth.

My dreams — happened. I’ve watched the transformation of my baby bump into a not-so-baby into a preteen into this compassionate, logical, smart young person who’s in the next room preparing for an out-of-state trip to volunteer for hospice care.

As it turns out, I am overwhelmed by her awesomeness, always.

And…Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young were right.


3 thoughts on “Journey to the Center of My Pocket Protector (and Beyond)

  1. Oh my! This is wonderful. You HAVE done such a good job parenting. I admired you so much.

  2. uh, admire, present tense. Might as well add the past and future tense as well. We all should be so fortunate as to be “Predisastered” like this!

  3. I love this essay! Thank you for writing it and sharing it with me. I wish my parents had time for me when I was a kid. I really could have used the guidance. Now, I’m trying to teach myself some basics so I can arm myself with the tools I need to teach myself, and so on.

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