Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades

I’ve been thinking a lot about projecting these days. I don’t mean projecting my voice or projecting sales figures, but projecting my worries and fears onto my kids’ futures.

It’s easy to feel as if each and every decision we make sets our kids on the course for the rest of their lives. And our parenting screw-ups? We may joke about them, but I know I can’t be the only one who feels that when I not doing such a great job there could be long term repercussions.
Tom and I have been listening to parenting cd’s by a guy name Kirk Martin for about a year now. His company is called Celebrate Calm. He tells parents that they can’t control their kids, only themselves and their reactions to their kids. I just love this guy.

He tells parents not to project their fears about the future onto their kids, because kids will grow and change. “Just because your 9 year old wants to sit around playing video games all day does not mean he’ll be living in the basement playing video games all day when he’s 28.” Whew.

With the big school decision that has hijacked much of Tom’s and my summer (okay, my summer), I’ve been doing more than my share of projecting.

For instance, if we let introverted Jake stay at his small private Christian school, will we be setting him up for failure when he needs to adapt to a large public junior high and high school? Will choosing the best place for him right now set him up for anxiety, depression and being stuffed into lockers when he is older? Will he become a Republican? Tom, I'm kidding about that last one, sort of.

And would taking Molly out of her small private Christian school now, when she’s open to the idea of public school (Bells? Buses? Yay!) render her lost in a sea of 28 faces, never again to get individual attention? Will learning be a thing of the past? Will she think we sold her out to save $8,000 a year?

Will severing her ties to the world of plaid jumpers and American Girl dolls send her to seek attention in the wrong ways ending up with a saga reminiscent of “Girl, Interrupted” at worst and “Juno” at best? Will depriving her of Latin at a young age mean she’ll never be able to chat about etymology with the rest of the fam?

Yeah, my kids have had to live with a crazy, indecisive, worrying mom this summer.

I have great kids. Not easy kids, but great kids. I hate to say this but they are such great kids and so utterly the right kids for me that I have moments when I pity other moms because they didn’t get mine.

But can they tell this, or do they pick up on all my anxiety and my inner projections?

Maybe I worry for the sake of worrying?

"Hurry up. Slow down. Go talk to that person. Make a friend. Be a friend. Smile. Make eye contact. Think of others first. Get good grades. Try out for the team. Talk. Quit talking." And on and on it goes…

I remember when we took Jake to see Santa when he was 3.

Santa: “Have you been a good boy?”
Jake: “A little bit.”

It kind of broke my heart.

I mean, really. What 3 year old is NOT going to lie to Santa and say he was perfect? What 3 year old kid is not going to believe he was perfect? Apparently mine.

And at bedtime a few weeks ago, snuggled close in the dark, saying prayers and talking, when I whisper to Jake that this bright, sensitive, tender, funny and dear kid has a very bright future, I feel a lone tear trickle out of his eye onto my cheek. He says nothing.

I don’t think our kids need our projecting. They have enough of their own going on, most of which we’ll never know.


sokphal said...

You not only have great kids (not that I've met them), but CUTE kids! :)

Kate Coveny Hood said...

This speaks to me on so many levels (for different reasons - but still). I need to check out that book.

bernthis said...

Oh boy, that hit home. Ay!

Shana said...

I'm dealing with some parenting issues at the moment too, trying my best to NOT project my own crap onto my kids. It's tough.

Heidi said...

This is beautiful. I'm going to be thinking about this post for a while.

Metamorphosis of Me said...

I absolutely adore your blog! Your kids are great!

L said...

I love Jake and Molly. And you.

PaperCourt said...

What a sweet post!

Deidra said...

What a sweet, honest and wonderful post! My children are grown and just about gone, but I can remember projecting, and sometimes I still do. One day in particular I was vacuuming and at the same time - in my mind - projecting the very worst future onto my son. I mean, I was going on and on, while vacuuming the very same spot over and over. Finally, God's voice broke through and told me, "As long as there is breath there is hope." Snapped me right back to reality! Nearly twenty years later, I'm still holding on to those words. Thank God. Seriously!