I took my daughter and her best friend to the mall last week. My daughter started talking about her schedule and the fact she didn’t want to take French 3 since it wasn’t a requirement. She’s struggled with it the past two years as it is. Their conversation in the backseat in between laughing at Snapchat:
Friend: “Since you are going to be a junior this year, you have to make sure you really load up because that’s what colleges are looking at the most; your junior year. I’d just do it if I were you. Like, I’m taking band even though I hate it if I want to have a shot at any of the colleges on my list. ”
She continued to give my daughter all the other reasons why she should stick with French and the more she did, the more stressed my daughter got. She likes to work after school, she likes to make sure she has plenty of time to cook and spend time with her pets. And she has always struggled to just get by in school.
Then, they started talking about their senior projects and senior papers and I could see my daughter was almost in full on panic-mode.
I reminded them both that their junior year hadn’t even started yet and it was important to take one thing, and one day, at a time.
I love my daughter’s friend very much. They have a great friendship even though she is in honors classes, has taken private singing lessons, can play several instruments, and she and my very average daughter have different goals in life. That’s okay.
In fact, before we picked her up for our outing, she was at her singing lesson and brought her laptop with her because the honors program she is in requires her to do work over the summer.
I’m not ashamed to say my daughter got out of bed and spent her morning getting ready and playing with her animals, then took a spin around the neighborhood on her longboard.
She’d been working two jobs this summer and it was her day off and she’d been looking forward to it.
She’s not in honors classes, nor is she interested in playing sports, joining clubs, or learning how to play an instrument. She wants to go to college, but she’s not interested in going through painful lengths to get into a certain school.
We’ve had our time trying those things out and after she’d lost interest, I wasn’t going to push her into doing them because I see how miserable she is. That’s not good for her, it’s not good for anyone on her team, and it’s not good for the instructors or coaches.
I do believe hard work is great and it pays off. But, I also don’t want to see any of my kids feel so stressed out during their teenage years that it affects their quality of life or their mental health.
School doesn’t come easy to her. She just wants to get through these next two years. She gets social anxiety and I’ve watched her go through enough bouts of anxiety and depression to know that risking her mental health, and pushing her to do something she hates, isn’t something I’m going to do.
All teenagers are different, and her friend thrives on her travel teams, private lessons, and honors classes, and has her mind set on a certain college, but my daughter isn’t like that.
She needs more downtime, doesn’t do well in big groups, and she’s not a leader amongst her peers. She’s happiest when she has a schoolwork load that feels bearable, when she gets lots of time around animals, and when she can work and earn some money because it gives her confidence and a sense of autonomy.
Life enrichment isn’t about working ourselves to the bone to try and outdo everyone, or to prove a point. There’s a difference between challenges making us happy, and feeling like we are so burnt out and risking our mental state to get something we think we want.
I want my kids to learn this as soon as possible, and if they want to put in more time and effort to get into a certain school, I will always remind them that their happiness needs to come first.
My daughter wants to go to college, but there’s no reason to let this consume her. She doesn’t need to take that French class, and do everything else that is required of her — college applications, applying for scholarships, working, volunteering, getting an internship — if it’s going to ruin her junior year.
Everything has become such a huge process these days. Kids are taking college courses in high school to get ahead. I’m not sure what they are trying to get ahead of, though. There is plenty of time to figure things out and if you ask me, they need it. They are kids.
Life is about doing your best and working hard, yes.
But, it’s more about finding those things that make you happy; fulfilled, and a sense of purpose that’s your own — not living out someone else’s idea of what you should be accomplishing.
The fact I want my daughter to only take on what she feels like she can so her mental health doesn’t suffer doesn’t make either of us lazy, and I’m not teaching my daughter to give up.
I’m teaching her to put her mind and health first, because at the end of the day, that is the most important thing. It’s better to walk away from something with that intact versus being depressed, burnt out, and feeling like you don’t even want to finish the goal you worked so hard for.
Getting into college doesn’t need to be frying our teenagers (or us) into a damn crisp.