As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized some things about myself that were kind of shocking in that they stood in direct opposition to the image I’d always held of myself in my brain; an image born of years of cultural conditioning and schooling.
First off, I don’t really love sports. I was a competitive gymnast for years but once I quit the gymnastics team I never gave it a second thought and never regretted giving it up. Playing a team sport holds no interest to this day, even just for fun, and my go to workouts are things like Pilates and anything remotely dance-like. The only sport I sometimes watch is soccer – the U.S. Mens team and some English Premier League. (With the odd baseball game thrown in here and there…)
Second, I don’t love the great outdoors. I mean, I grew up on a farm and spent tons of time outside as a kid, not to mention a solo two month cross country camping trip that I made in my 20′s….so maybe this is a more recent phenomena. The idea of going to the beach is better than actually going to the beach. All that sand. Pools with water slides are much more fun. And hiking? Well I’ve hiked the Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and loved it, and I don’t mind a good trail hike now and then (although I can’t remember the last time I did one – probably before the kids were born), but give me an indoor climbing wall any day. No ticks, for one thing.
I don’t love cooking wonderful meals for my family, which if you’ve read my blog for a while will come as no surprise. Enough said.
Finally, and this is the one that has only recently given me a lot of reason to think – I don’t love academics. Oh sure, I was a good student – A’s and B’s with one lone C in high school (in Biology), and the same in college. But I did it because I had to. Not because I loved the subjects.
With the exception of literature. I’ve always loved reading and books. So of course I majored in German and English Literature in college and people would always ask me if I intended to teach. Eww. No. I intended to read. I like speaking German and I like travel. Somehow those three things, reading, speaking German and traveling got me to a degree in German & English with a semester of off campus study in Austria and Germany.
Despite a high school diploma and a Bachelor’s Degree, when I look back I see that almost everything I know (and when I say “know” I mean that I can reference or talk about with some degree of intelligence without going to look it up first) I learned after my time in school or outside of school. Mostly from books, movies, TV documentaries, newspapers, travel and just…living life.
So if that is the case (and I know that it is) why do I still get attacks of insecurity surrounding my kids’ lack of academic orientation? This happens most often – not surprisingly, I suppose – on days when I spend several hours surrounded by people discussing the academic classes their (homeschooled) kids will be taking this year.
Oh, and the other – somewhat related – thing? My kids are now 13 and 9 and I guess they are either more independent and self-sufficient than many other kids or I am inadvertently neglecting them. I mean, we spend a lot of time in the same apartment, but I almost never direct their daily activities anymore. They know what they want to do and they do it. Or they employ my help in doing it. They make sure I signed them up for that class or ask to go on this trip (even our VidCon trip to California came about at Maya’s request). I drive to water parks and buy food and talk a lot about random stuff that I read or like or that I think might interest them. Sometimes they are interested and sometimes not. Ben is all about Minecraft these days but doesn’t want my help with any of it, and so that’s his thing. I don’t build or play with him – he shows me the things he’s done and I’m amazed he figured it all out.
Our big conversations almost always revolve around subjects like relationships or finances or travel. Probably in that order.
What am I getting at with all of this? I guess it’s that for a long time I had an image of myself as this sporty, outdoorsy, academically oriented person.
But I’m not.
And as such, I need to remind myself not to try and impose that same inauthentic image on my kids just because it is what I see and hear around me from other parents about their kids. Maybe for them it isn’t inauthentic. For us? It definitely is.
So what if I’m raising independent computer and social media geeks who love travel and reading and movies (watching and making)? What if they never learn about chemistry or calculus? What if they never sing in a choir or play a musical instrument?
Is it better to have been a good student at things you didn’t like and don’t remember, or live your life always working on or toward things you enjoy, trusting that knowledge isn’t linear and it is only in hindsight that we can connect the dots?
Have I just answered my own question?