Monday, January 11, 2010

Not our parenting choices

I should write about the trip to Florida - about cloth diapers and traveling, or about how my dad actually did something I never thought I'd see, or how crazy it really is traveling with a trach kid and all his stuff. And I will.

But what's really on my mind is parenting, and the choices we (and other people) make, and what our kids learn from watching us make those choices.

A parent we know has two daughters - both are in middle school, and one is starting high school in the fall.

She's the kind of mom who puts toddlers in front of the TV, because playing on the floor with them is "beneath" her.

I was floored several months ago when I overheard her tell Acorn that he should plan on growing up to be a football star, because they make lots of money. Besides the fact that frankly, a kid with his lung issues is not likely to be a sports star, and the fact that the odds of even a *good* football player becoming a pro are still isn't everything.
I'm in a position where I make enough that money isn't an issue in our house very often these days (and when it is, it's usually because we did something silly). I grew up dirt poor, though, and I recognize I say all this this from a place of privilege. But beyond a minimum amount to keep a roof our heads and food on the table, and heat and lights and does not bring happiness, friends, faith, or security.

Back to this parent though.

She wants to send her older daughter to a particular parochial high school next fall. It's expensive - expensive enough that there's talk of re-financing the mortgage on the house to pay for it. And there was a placement test last month, with scholarship opportunities to top scorers.

Now....the scholarship was about 1.5 months of tuition, which is not a lot as far as I'm concerned. And she had her and her daughter all worked up about how much help this scholarship would be - how much she needed this scholarship. It turns out, however, that the girl is a solid student, but definitely not top of her class, and her scour on the placement test was pretty much where she scores on her normal standardized testing....and both mom and daughter are devastated.

Mom has been calling the school, asking them what other help there is, explaining how they can't get more hours at work and how they were counting on this  scholarship money....and my thought is, if $1000 makes the difference as to whether or not you can pay for something, maybe you ought to re-evaluate your position on what constitutes affordable.

Given that mom & dad's plan for paying for the girls to go to college is that the girls are on a traveling soccer team (which costs several thousand dollars a year), and this "guarantees" that the girls will get full ride scholarships to college (nothing is  a guarantee. women's sports rarely come with full ride scholarships, and you're more likely to get a full ride with an academic scholarship anyway), it doesn't surprise me. But....if they even just put that soccer money into a savings account every year, they'd have plenty for in-state tuition, or for a year or two at a community college and then off to wherever.

I can't help but wonder where these two girls will be 10 years from now - still thinking that there's some quick fix to money issues, not knowing how to save, still talking about the soccer stars they could have been, if only mom and dad had paid for this or that.

And I find myself wondering what kind of parent sets their kid up for failure the way she did on this placement test - it's one thing to tell a kid to do their best, another thing entirely to tell them that their worth is based on something that it is patently out of their reach.

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