Teaching Our Kids to Cope
We’re in the midst of the high school selection process for my youngest. It’s a major ordeal in New York City. The directory of schools is, I kid you not, 584 pages long.
We don’t have to visit every school, for many are in other boroughs, academically weak or too highly specialized for my son to consider. But throughout October and November we have at least one school tour scheduled a week.
Then, at the beginning of December, Stephen will submit a list of up to 12 schools in priority order, and after several months of crunching the data from all 75,000+ eighth graders, the city will tell us which school he will attend next year.
Fortunately, I have gone through this process several times before. I can pretty much tell at a glance which parents are shepherding their kids through for the first time. They are the tense ones, who snap at their young teens for not taking the school tours seriously enough.
Watching one mother harangue her daughter last week it dawned on me that part of why she was so cranky was that she wasn’t in control of the selection process. She was afraid she’d do something wrong… or at least fail to get some piece of the complicated puzzle right.
I wanted to tell her, very gently, that even if we parents did everything with procedural perfection, there still wouldn’t be any guarantee that our kids will get into the school they want, or that their lives will work out the way we hope. Instead of stressing over that we are better off learning to tolerate discomfort, better off becoming adept at pivoting and rebounding, better off becoming intent on teaching our kids (and ourselves) to handle disappointment graciously.
This is something I think faith teaches us to do. It’s the letting-go part of every prayer: Thy will be done. We don’t actually need to be in control; what we need is to do what we’re given to do, and be willing to accept whatever comes next. What we want is neither the Alpha nor the Omega. Knowing that makes life a whole lot less stressful.
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