The last time I posted here, it was July, almost six months ago to the day. Oh, well. It’s my blog. I can write (or not write) however often I choose. Today, I choose to write. Mid-afternoon sun is streaming through the windows of our family room, and the boy and I are still wearing our pajamas. These final days of winter break are always so mellow. We’ve been back and forth to Manhattan twice in the past nine days, celebrating holidays with many of our nearest and dearest. Now we’re home, gearing up for a new semester and some big changes.
We are (all of us, really) in the midst of high school applications for the boy. He’s up to his nostrils in essays, short-answer prompts, and personal reflections. We’ve been on campus tours, participated in interviews, read guidebooks, and investigated web sites. He’s considering questions that most of us would struggle to answer as adults: “Describe a time when your beliefs about something changed.” “Imagine you are writing your autobiography. Submit page 179. Feel free to be creative.” “What are your favorite qualities about yourself?”
As we’ve been reading his drafts, the husband and I can’t help but think about what our own answers might be. In addition, we have our own essays to prepare. One of the forms asks us to compose a parenting motto and explain it. This challenge has been on my mind for more than a week. I’m not sure I could reduce my parenting to a motto. We certainly have an approach, and we’re both extremely mindful of the great privilege and responsibility we have in sending this young man out into the world– but a motto? I can’t come up with anything that isn’t trite. Here are a couple of attempts.
“Love and Limits.” This has potential, I guess. We could explain that in our family, as much as we cherish our son, we know how important it is to provide guidelines that lead him to make good choices.
“Find Your Own Joy.” More than anything, I want my son to be resilient. I want him to know how to recognize disappointments as specific incidents, not defining characteristics, in his life. Every day, he and I talk about the highlight of our day–and there are only rare occasions when one of us will say that it hasn’t happened yet; that maybe a snuggle on the couch or a yummy dinner with be the best part of the day. I believe that kind of deliberate optimism is essential to a life well-lived.
“You Don’t Have To Be The Best; You Just Have To Do Your Best.” This might be the winner, and it’s a message we’ve repeated countless times with our boy. He has many wonderful talents and skills, and he is fortunate to be capable in a number of areas–but he’s not a star at everything. For the areas where he excels, we expect (and we expect him to expect of himself) excellence. For the pursuits that are not his strengths, we expect (and expect him to expect of himself) his best effort. We are equally proud (and expect him to be equally proud) of the results.
And so, as a new calendar year begins, and a school year begins a new term, and our lives continue to unfold, we can all find a few moments for review.