In all of the planning we have done as parents for the future of our teenage daughter, we never thought we would be Here.
Here is with a 17 year old junior in high school who has not taken the PSAT. Or the SAT.
Here is where all of our peer parents are taking their 17-year-olds on college tours.
Here is where most of our peer parents are fretting over their teen driving a car.
Here is where their teens are talking about college, taking part-time jobs, spreading their wings and getting ready to leave the nest.
Here is where I would love to be taking her to visit my alma mater and showing her where I spent the best four years of my life.
Here is where her dad knows that there is not a chance right now or ever that she could get in to his alma mater.
We are not Here yet.
Let me back up and give you some history on our wonderful 17-year-old daughter and us. She is bright, personable, easy going, and pretty, yet she is immature, and clinically depressed. Her father and I are college educated–I guess we are achievers–and I for one am a control freak. Wonderful combination. We started pushing grades and extra-curriculars at a young age. It didn’t work so well on this particular child.
We have watched her go through two years of not wanting to go to school, not wanting to leave her room, not wanting to drive a car, not wanting to socialize in groups for fear of being called names, being overwhelmed by the amount of work required of her in average classes, being bullied because she was in a ‘support class’ in high school. We have read every tough love book in the universe. We have used every tactic. We have seen counselor after counselor, shrink after shrink, given her anti-depressant after anti-depressant, and received COPIOUS amounts of advice to us from family members and friends.
And she/we are not without fault in all of this. She is not the perfect kid. We are not the perfect parents. There are many things I would do to change that now. But hindsight is 20/20, right?
Walk a mile in our shoes.
We had enrolled her in a small private school in the 4th grade but by the time high school came around, and the ensuing economic bust, we decided to enroll her in the local highly rated ginormous public high school. Really, really bad move on our part. She was also diagnosed with ADD, with particular problems in comprehension. And unless you chain yourself to a very large immovable object and stage a protest, getting this particular county to work with you on an IEP (Individual Education Plan) for your child is a near impossibility. And we tried, twice. Both times none of her teachers showed up. Because when you have a classroom with an average roster of 30 plus, one with an ‘issue’ that is not particularly bad is a waste of their time.
In the area we live in – those of the gated, golf, upscale neighborhoods in which we reside, there is a competitiveness amongst the teens, AND the parents over grades, achievement, and sports. You cannot attend one social function or sports event without running into peers who ask the proverbial question, “So, where do YOU want to go to college?”
And that question starts in the ninth grade.
Six weeks into her freshman year, her counselor called me to discuss her progress and her illnesses. The main gist of the conversation was this comment, “Well, looking at her grades right now (after six weeks and a bout of mono) your daughter is NOT on track to go to the local big-time state university.”
“Ummm, she is sick?” It took every ounce of my willpower to not lose my cool on the phone with her and tell her that maybe, just maybe, my daughter will not be attending college right away. Or ever.
And living in an area where every parent is an overachiever, every kid is an overachiever, every kid is fabulous, every kid wears college sweatshirts to school, every kid gets a decent car on their 16th birthday, every kid has been in a limo–sometimes more than once, been on fantastic vacations, wears designer clothes, has perfect hair, teeth and skin, goes to the gym, is particularly hard for the parent of that one kid that is an individual, is not cut out for diagramming sentences, doesn’t really care about attending the varsity football games, and wants or needs a different track to adult success.
If I could have a dollar for every one of my peer’s kids who lasted, sometimes not even one semester, at the colleges they were sent to and came home, got a job and ended up at the local community college, I would be a fairly wealthy woman. It’s like the story of the lemmings. They follow the first one, everyone joins in, and they end up off a cliff.
That’s not to say that the majority of these kids don’t end up doing great and enjoying college…and graduating, getting jobs and continuing on in life. Most do.
But it’s not for everybody and our American system of educating these kids is doing future mechanics, electricians, plumbers, artists, musicians and more a great injustice.
So for now, her dad and I are coming to terms with the fact that our daughter is: 1. Probably not going to graduate on time (gasp) and more than likely, 2. Probably going to go to a local community college first and then make a decision.
So here we are. We pulled her out of the large school and now she is a very small private school that gives her individual attention. It is breaking our backs financially. But she wants to do well, and given the choice between a high school diploma and a GED, she chose the regular diploma.
It’s taken quite a long time to get here. And quite a long time for her father and I to accept that this is where we are. We have had our pity party. We have had our fights, frustrations and our own individual depression about our reality. But at the end of the day, it’s what is right for our daughter.
And finally, she is on track…to what we are not really sure of, but that is okay.
We are Here.