The Fear and Honesty of a Mother (continued from Holy Moly! Post)

Our previous post, from here on to be called the “Holy Moly!” post, caused quite a stir!  Yes!!  I love it when we’re all sharing about stuff that really gets us going!  Today I’d like to continue the ‘conversation’ by sharing an email I received from the friend who originally posted the New York Times article that kicked this whole thing off.

If you didn’t read the Holy Moly! post, click here to get up to speed.

As you read the email below, please be thinking of any comments you’d like to add.  By keeping this conversation alive, I believe it’s helping parents everywhere to know:  they’re not alone, we recognize this is a multi-layered topic, and we’re here to support one another while we sort through it.

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Hey Leslie,

I had so many thoughts spinning around my head when I posted that article the other day, but at the same time I was sort of speechless.  So, I just posted it with a short tagline and left if at that….all the while the article is still spinning in my head.

I’m not sure where to start or how to organize my thoughts on it, so I’m going to go free form with this writing…honest and all.

My initial thought was fear.  I was frightened because even if I rock the house on the don’t do drugs campaign to my kids, I can see how this sort of drug use can be appealing to those kids who would never do the illegal drugs – cocaine, pot, etc.  I can see how this type of drug use can be justified as ok to the kids who know better than to do the “real” drugs.  I was too scared to do drugs in high school for tons of reasons, but I can see how something like this might not seem so scary and I may have tried it.  So now, the “good girls” aren’t even safe from the world of drugs.  I felt defeated as a parent just reading it…like no matter how good I do on the don’t do drugs talk, there is still this and it will probably win.  I know that is very pessimistic and I know better and I will try, I will really try, but that is definitely how I felt while reading it.

I appreciate how you approached the article through your posts…about accepting that your best is good enough and being ok with that.  And to take the pressure off the kids and all of that.  But I don’t think it is that simple (and that isn’t even simple!).  Let’s say the kid does accept his best as being good enough, he’s a well-adjusted kid completely comfortable in his/her own skin…but maybe this kid is feeling a little lazy, or just not that interested in this particular subject matter, or has some exciting event going on that week and it’s distracting him from his schoolwork or studying for a test – well, there is a drug for that.  And no matter how well adjusted one might be, everyone feels lazy sometimes, or desires a short cut at some point.  That is what is so fucking frightening to me.  No matter how scared a kid may be to try drugs, no matter how good they feel about themselves, no matter how supportive and loving and non-pressurery their parents may be…there is still this and it has the potential to appeal to anyone. So yes, I’m still feeling defeated.

The article also spoke of where I live…not directly, but Southlake breeds highly successful people.  This year our high school won more state championships than any other school in Texas ever, plus the kids are freakin brilliant.  And here is the kicker…they look happy.  The teenagers I know and see around town seem to enjoy their life.  They don’t look stressed or defeated or beat down….they laugh, they smile, they look happy.  I know appearances don’t tell the whole story…I get that.  But there aren’t a bunch of tragic stories here…there is a pretty positive vibe where I live.  And remember how I had never heard of in-school suspension at my daughter’s school  – they don’t have it…not in elementary school…these are well-behaved kids too.

But expectations are high.  In the fall of 4th grade the students take a standardized test that places them in their math track for 5th grade and beyond.  Yes, there was a lot of talk of high school math placement at our 5th grade parent orientation.  5th grade here is just like middle and high school – 8 periods, 8 teachers, lockers, change classes, etc.  The organizational expectation alone is too much for these kids…but they do it, they may struggle at first, but they figure it out and do it.  And the expectations aren’t just high for grades…we breed winners here…we have traditions to protect (the protecting traditions comment is actually a tagline used around here).

Nope, not a Superbowl ring, this is the Southlake Championship Ring*

And despite all my fear and worry, I’m not willing to leave the school district yet.  I have had deep conversations about whether or not this is the best place to raise my children…will they get lost here, is this the best environment for them to learn, etc.  But I haven’t moved yet.  For all that I don’t love about where I live, there are parts on the flip side of the coin that I do appreciate.  My kids will get a great education, they won’t walk through metal detectors to get to their classes, they have access to great coaches and instructors in their extra curricular activities, and so much more.  But yes, all of it comes with the price of high expectations.  And are high expectations so bad if the kid is capable???  I wonder.

My mind is still all over the place on this…so many sidebar subjects are coming up.  The bottom line is I’m scared.  I’m scared that no matter what I do, this type of drug use will feel safe and appealing to my children…and I can see why they would feel that way.

I do know that is all comes down to trust.  As parents, we have to do the best that we can; love, teach and support our little chickens and trust them to make good choices….and even when they don’t, well, we have to find trust in that too.

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*Taken from the site where I found the above picture of the high school ring, “The rings are absolutely blinged out, covered in what appear to be diamonds and other gems (though, to be fair, they could be facsimiles of the precious stones). With a central design that incorporates the school’s USC-like logo, it also includes a whopping 40 white stones (diamonds or otherwise) in the central motif and eight, emerald-like green stones around the ring’s border.”

She mentioned something about breeding winners, didn’t she?  Well, I’ll say!!  I just had to include that visual once I found it!

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No additional commentary from me, other than to thank my friend for posting the New York Times article, then sharing her thoughts and fears so openly with us here today.

Do you have something to share on the topic?  I’d love to hear from you.  We’d all love to hear from you.

Love, Leslie

Holy Moly! This is Beyond Frightening!

Wow.  Thank you for the buzz around Monday’s post, “Can You Tell Which Story is True?”  Several of you shared it on Facebook and I received numerous private messages regarding the post.

Today, I’d like to explain why I wrote it.  And I’d like to ask for your help.  Because, to be honest, I don’t know where to go from here, but something must be done.

This past weekend, while my boys were at their grandparent’s house, I found myself sitting in my backyard enjoying seeing what was going on with my friends on Facebook.  You know how there are certain people who post articles, and they’re always good?  They are the friends who you’ve learned post the ‘good stuff’, the stuff you’re interested in.

That day, I hesitantly clicked on the following article (hesitantly, due to my friend’s caption, “Holy moly!  This is beyond frightening!”);  I knew it had to be something big.

And it was.

The link took me to Huffington Post, which immediately took me to a New York Times article.  Under Huffington, the article was called, “Seeking Academic Edge, Teenagers Abuse Stimulants,” where the New York Times had it titled, “Risky Rise of the Good-Grade Pill.”

Although it was a lengthy article, I did not skim.  I read every word.  High school students, snorting different prescription medications, mostly ones prescribed for legitimate A.D.H.D. symptoms, in order to boost their grades, was the gist of it.

If you click on the title of the article above, you can read the entire thing.  And yes, Holy Moly, it was beyond frightening.

Beyond frightening, because I could see how this was happening.  I could see how these teens were justifying their behavior, and how it appeared to be the epitome of a Catch-22.

Imagine these kids, since they were very young, being told they were destined for Ivy League schools.  They were expected to be hyper focused on academics, but also be star athletes, and it probably wouldn’t hurt to get some volunteer hours of community service under their belts — any and everything that could position them to achieve what their parents have told them their entire lives… that they must stop at nothing short of greatness.

So here are these kids, maneuvering through Life, the way kids do, and somewhere along the way someone figures out that if you snort (or swallow) these pills before an exam, your brain goes into overdrive, and you are now making all of these A’s, where before you were studying like crazy to barely get B’s.

And the schools these kids are expected to get in to, B’s just won’t cut it.

While on these pills, you are able to stay up for hours and hours, retaining all of your study material, take LOTS of hard classes, still play your sports, and all the while your parents are tickled pink!!  Your coaches are over the moon!  You are a super, great, wonderful person, doing everything and probably more than anyone ever thought possible.

What a superior reflection on the parents!  What excellent coaching skills!!  Everyone is happy, happy, happy!

See the Catch-22?

Remember, I said the article was lengthy, so suffice it to say, I’m not doing the up-side (from the students‘ perspective) or the down-side (from Life’s perspective) justice here.  I haven’t even touched on the medical concerns, damage to the still not fully developed prefrontal cortex area of the brain in teens, rehab, oh, or the kids who become drug dealers out of all of this.  No, I’ve given you a very light dusting.

But I’ve given you enough to understand why I wrote Monday’s post.  I was so disturbed by the contents of the New York Times piece, that I ached to write something innocent, something sweet.  So I wrote my boys a bedtime story.  (And I threw in some Steve Jobs…you know, for added flavor, plus I think it illustrated such a strong point about the story we choose to believe about ourselves.)

I wanted to share two stories with my boys, one made up by Mom, one true of an American icon when he was a little boy, that they could easily read between the lines and know the message of Choose Your Story is true.

But how does that last?  How do we keep our kids grounded?  Why, when I sat in my 6th graders “Prepare for High School Graduation” meeting a few weeks ago, and the guidance counselor discussed applying for scholarships NOW, did I wonder, ”Is she talking about college scholarships?  Why is she discussing this NOW?  Furthermore, why am I sitting in a meeting with the words ‘High School Graduation’ in the title when my son is in the 6th grade?  And why are we discussing all of these different ‘tracks’, or whatever they were called, that my son should choose NOW that will affect his number ranking in high school, which will then affect his ability to get into college??

Why?

All of this focus on getting ahead.  I get it.  Really I do.  Academics are important.  We live in a highly competitive culture.  With all of this focus on IQ related stuff (or is it even IQ?  Maybe I said it right to begin with, “getting ahead”) — how about our children’s EQ?  Who is focusing on that?

I apologize if it sounds like I’m on my soapbox.  I so seldom, if ever, have used my blog to push a personal agenda.  And if this is a personal agenda, I don’t know what my agenda is.  All I know is, shouldn’t this be ALL of our agenda?  Our collective agenda for our children?  For them to feel like they are enough… no matter what?

Because they are enough.  No matter what.

This is the part where I ask for your help.  I want you to think about this.  And I want you to send me your ideas on how we instill this feeling of Being Enough in our children.  This feeling of:

If you do your very best, and you know it’s your very best, then well, I’m tickled pink!  I’m over the moon!  And you should be, too! 

What do your friends think?  Ask them and let me know.  I want you to ask your parents, as they are older and wiser and have seen more of Life.  What are their ideas?

Comment here, below.  Comment on my TLT Facebook page.  Send me an email at leslie@trustlifetoday.com.  It doesn’t matter how you contact me, just contact me.

Here’s a caveat.  Say you think about it, and you don’t have any ideas, but you’re living a life where you know you are enough — then tell me your storyWhat story have you told yourself that allows you to know that you are enough?  Your story can be a one-liner, you know.  Remember, Steve Jobs chose to believe the story that after being put up for adoption, he was CHOSEN, not discarded.  That was his story.

Please share this post — I’d like to hear from as many people as possible.  Thank you.  Love, Leslie