…eir passions, and how to strive for the things they want, rather than for empty markers of success. But I am discovering that I don’t know how to channel their personalities and interests towards a good, happy, fulfilled life any more than I knew what to do with myself, scared in that freshman dorm room.
This is some good self-awareness. Focus on the process, not the outcome.
I have four girls, age 9–16, and raising my oldest has been a real eye opener. She has intellectual gifts and was conditioned by her school system to base her value on how many proverbial hoops she could jump through, the end goal being the elusive Ivy League admission.
Ok. Admitted. “Now what?”
She is coming to terms with the fact that the payoff she has been promised for all of these years isn’t forthcoming after all…because it’s not real.
Harvard? Check. Yale? Check. Happiness? Not even close. Meaning? Elusive. Satisfaction? Impossible.
I didn’t do this to her. I came from working class stock and we didn’t know about these things. Her school pushed her and used her to elevate its own status. “We produced a National Merit Scholar!” Sure. One with crippling anxiety and paralyzing resentment at being bred as a show pony.
She is playing a game where even if she “wins”, she loses. Her real gifts, her love for learning and curiosity, were sacrificed to the gods of academic prestige and shortsighted accolades.
We are working on reclaiming them.
Teach your daughter empathy and kindness and nurture her creativity and curiosity. Let her fail. Let her discover. Those pursuits will deliver.
Kids get tied up in knots when their “performance” (I.e. how well they can fill out forms and perform rote memorization) is conflated with their self-worth.
Especially when the cookie they were promised, if they managed to “succeed”, doesn’t actually exist.