Thursday, November 19, 2009

In the Weeds

Everything is ramping up at the magazine since we lost so many good people. Another person quit yesterday, in protest over the 18 people who were let go. You can do that in your twenties, quit your job in protest, because you don't yet have too many bills and no dependents other than yourself who count on your paycheck.

Anyway, the point of all that is that between long hours at work and being there for my mom and my aunt, 87 and 91, I feel like I barely have time to formulate a thought, much less a whole post. And then there is my 15-year-old daughter, who is not so happy about the way school is going right now. Which of course makes me worry (my default) and sends me into a tailspin wherein I try to figure out all the worst case scenarios so I can get busy preventing them. It's exhausting!

So please forgive the quoting of whole exchanges from my life. It's all I can do to record them. I have no mental space or emotional energy left over for the sort of analysis that helps me gain perspective. But thank God for good friends with similar overactive imaginations, who can contribute some analysis when you're lacking the ability to provide your own.

What follows is an email exchange from this morning between me and one of my friends, the brilliant mother of an academically gifted and charismatic 7-year old girl.

Me (responding to a question my friend posed that had absolutely nothing to do with my daughter's schooling): Jeannine, why am I so stressed at this moment waiting for my daughter's first quarter grades? I know she's not happy with them because she usually texts me them as soon as she gets out of the advisor conference. Why does this matter so much? Life is a long distance race and I keep getting caught in the weeds by the side of the road. So what if she didn't do that great? What am I making this mean? Sorry for going off on a tangent. I feel consumed with worry about how this might be the beginning of a downward spiral. A vivid imagination is not always a good friend.

Jeannine: What grade is she in again?

Me: Tenth.

Jeannine: If she's having a hard time then you can address it with a tutor or whatever. It's not the beginning of the end. The (potential) beginning of the end is if she's doing drugs, or pregnant, or suffering from depression. If she got bad grades one semester it's fixable. Even if she flunks out it's fixable. There is almost nothing that happens grade-wise in one year of high school that can't be addressed. I failed almost all my classes for three years of high school and ended up on the dean's list in university.

Maybe she senses your stress and it's stressing her out. I remember not showing my father my grades just because I thought he was too invested. I refused to show him my grades for my first two years of university (and I was doing well). Just something to consider.

But, I do understand. My kid's teacher wrote on her report card that she reads at "grade level," which is totally inaccurate and I am obsessed with how to show him the truth. I almost suggested she take The New York Times to school to pull out during quiet time.

I laughed so hard over that New York Times bit. I could totally picture her 7-year-old pulling the paper out and settling down to read. And then I took my friend's advice. I'm backing off with the worry. My daughter has such a well-honed sense of responsibility already, and she wants to do well so much she put herself on a Facebook diet for a week. It's true that Facebook is back interrupting homework again, but I think I will trust her to figure it out and just be there if she comes to me for help. The other part, of course, is that she is testing her chops socially right now, and as my friend pointed out when we talked on the phone later, it can be really hard to do the straight-A thing while trying to discover who you want to be socially.

I suspect my friend and I are members of a generation of nervous, overinvested parents. I think that we have bought into the baby boomer myth of scarce opportunities. And as parents of children of color we worry that the chances they get may be even more limited, and so they have to be super prepared. But the pathways to success are as creative and serendepitious and limitless and divine as individual definitions of success, and I don't know why I keep forgetting that.


  1. you so rock.

    I'm so thrilled your blog is here for me to read.
    Thank you. You get it.

  2. deb, it is such a gift when others understand what we feel. you so get this mothering thing. you are such a loving soul.