I turned 39 this week. It was a great day but I decided that maybe I have am having an I’m almost 40 crisis? These last few weeks have been hard. Something about September around here always messes with the rhythm and causes a little bit of chaos.
Hard. Did I even say that? This isn’t always pretty, we are sometimes just surviving. This the dumbest thing I have ever felt. THIS isn’t really hard, right?!
We want something else, we have some hefty dreams about a home on the range and cabins, one named “Nacho,” but we are fearful to pull our kids from what they know, from their “best path” to a path we know should be better, healthier for all of us. Is it okay to not live in a world, in a school, that the “AP Route” is expected, that the sports require kids to achieve the highest collegiate level in order to hang with their peers?
We do love living here. Our home is nice. Our community is full of awesome and loving people, working hard to give their kids the best they can muster up. We think we are giving our kids the best. But are we?
Jeff and I grew up in a world of diversity in every way. We were surrounded by people of different races, kids with different backgrounds and abilities. We never thought too hard about the path our academics were taking us. Did our school even have AP classes? We were just thankful to be doing generally well in the classes we were enrolled in…and we (me) may or may not have ditched more than our fair share of them to do things my mom still does not know about. Shh. We enjoyed high school. We also had many different races and economic backgrounds in our circle of friends. I cannot remember even one “stay at home mom.”
Our kids? Nope. A bunch of kids that look and live very similarly to one another. Except for the cheerleaders. I will say, this group is my favorite. At least they have ethnic diversity. Other than that, almost all kids are walking through the halls with Lululemon lunch bags and an expectation of AP classes, straight A’s, a 4.Something GPA, and university aspirations. I am ashamed. It greatly annoys me…and also…this is why we live here. I am trying to be honest and I am also DEEPLY conflicted. Would I send my kids to the same high school I went to? Not by choice. But who are we and what are we telling our children? Above perfect is the expectation, this is the “norm.” Yep, this is their truth, their measure. Ugh. What have we done?
I have a great mom. A mom that did her very best. I never even knew she how much she struggled to make our life feel “okay.” She knew hard on a different level. I LOVED Kraft Mac and Cheese. I LOVED her hamburger casserole, particularly for breakfast…and lunch the next day. I didn’t know why we were eating every week. I never considered it. I saw her work long, and hard. I saw her plan for paydays. My favorite job was managing the calculator at Cub Foods, the discount grocery store. Only now, as an adult, it is that I realize grocery trips were always made late in the evening. And, as I remember those trips, I see now what it meant when we had to put back one of the loaves of bread or where her fear stemmed from when I accidentally dropped the calculator and lost track of the total. I mean, I knew she didn’t like the mac and cheese, but I had no idea she didn’t love it reheated and stretched with a little Velveeta and milk the next day. I did! I loved it. I never even knew.
Until I was an adult, with “adult” type of expectations and responsibilities, did I realize that I had been completely oblivious to the hardships that we survived. There is a story about a pint of butter pecan ice cream that somehow snuck into one of our grocery bags. We knew that it was a gift STRAIGHT FROM JESUS. She and I had bagged those groceries, and we would never steal. At home, one of us must have asked, “how did this get here?” I don’t remember the out loud answer, but we knew. Jesus. The. Best. Ice Cream. EVER.
Who are we to say this isn’t “good” enough for our children. We don’t even buy Velveeta! Not even for a burger or a grilled cheese. (Our kids don’t even know what they’re missing, a velveeta grilled cheese and Campbell’s tomato soup is $4 dinner goodness.) We have just learned to love Tillamook cheddar and tomato bisque…well they have. But Jeff and I are faced with different kinds of questions about how, and where we are raising our daughters. This isn’t perfect. We never thought it would be, but what really is “too much?” Not enough good food, or the feelings of complete failure if you get a 76% on an AP exam as a junior? We are hoping to create a Door #3.
It probably took me to see my oldest daughter’s “adventurer’s spirit” to realize where she got it from. From me. From us. Jeff and I didn’t take the normal path from the beginning. Somewhere along the way fear and conformity spoke loudly enough for us to listen. We heard the message loud and clear and then we measured ourselves against a path that made absolutely no sense to us, but we conformed none-the-less.
Live your best life, they said…so long as it looks safe and just like all of the “successful people’s” paths. This will make you good parents. Maybe they never told me that. Likely, it was me, my fear, my insecurities about being the best parent I could be to our girls.
Girls, I don’t even know. I am sorry. I feel like if we had all of you now we would have had it more figured out. But we didn’t. You came to us early, and naive. You were pre-teens before we had our footing. Some of you were moving out and we realized that you had already taught us just as much as we thought we knew.
So today, this is my challenge. 39 showed up FAST! 1 year to a more peaceful me. I will listen to my own heart and speak my own truths. I will lean into untainted questioning about what I believe, for me and for you. Your A’s matter to me, if they matter to you. Errr, I will work on that one. Some of you are already on a path that you have planned out. You inspire me. (I declared a Political Science major and didn’t even know what that meant. What does that even mean?) Others of you still have it to figure out. Me too, Babe.