Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Being a bad parent

Laura at 11D writes about bad mothering. I read the Belkin post she refers to, where she suggests that we may be approaching a time of less overparenting. I also read what I think are the beginnings of a longer piece by her on this issue (it just didn't seem finished to me). Yesterday, we went to Geeky Girl's violin recital where we experienced a cringeful moment of recognizing that our kid did not perform as well as many of the kids--because we don't push her to practice. We are not bad parents by the definition given by Kai in the comments to Laura's post. Our kids eat three good meals a day. They're clothed well. We make sure they get to school on time and get their homework done (most of the time). They're invovled in sports and music. But compared to some other parents, we don't push them very much. We do limit computer time and tv time, but we don't say, take them to the library all the time to make sure they have books to read or enroll them in private lessons or take them on field trips for the purpose of learning something.

I'm becoming acutely aware of how little we've pushed our kids as Geeky Boy approaches high school. Both of our kids are smart. We don't have to explain homework to them and they ace state tests, but they often lack motivation. In elementary school and middle school, this doesn't matter too much. But I'm afraid that some bad habits have set in. I'm keenly aware of the competition to get into college and I worry that if Geeky Boy lets things slide too much, there will be no college for him. And although I tell myself that I don't care where he goes to school, the reality is that I want him to go somewhere good, somewhere that will give him opportunities and advantages that maybe I didn't have.

Sometimes I feel embarrassed that my kids aren't pursuing interesting hobbies on their own. Although they both play instruments, they don't show a whole lot of interest in becoming really good at them. They both play sports and are pretty good at them, but they're not always out in the back yard kicking a ball around or practicing head shots. They've shown little interest in art or writing. Back in my childhood, of course, this would be no big deal, but now, it seems if your kid doesn't stand out in some way, you're made to feel as if you've failed as a parent. Intellectually, I know this isn't true, but I feel it emotionally more often than I'd like.

There are many things I'm proud of my kids for. Geeky Boy is really smart and he actually talks to us about current events, about philosophical issues, and shares things he's discovered on the Internet (some hilarious, some fascinating). He's also very empathetic and I bet he's becoming a good friend to other people. He's funny and charming, at ease with both kids and adults. Geeky Girl is filled with confidence, something I hope she holds on to as she moves in middle school soon. She's good at math and science and prefers those subjects to reading. She does do some writing of stories at times and I hope she continues to. For now, she seems unconcerned about her appearance, preferring comfortable clothes to stylish ones. I enjoy being around her and she seems to still enjoy being around me.

I feel that both my kids are at the core good kids and I know that I'm doing my best to provide a supportive environment for them to develop in. I guess the overparenting movement has made me have the nagging thought, "Am I doing enough?"