Monday, January 5, 2015

Counting Unanticipated Blessings

2015. As John Lennon said, "Another year over and a new one just begun." We celebrated Christmas at home, then a few days later went to New York for New Year's. As usual by early January, I was putting away all our decorations (three trees, countless ornaments), putting together a new datebook, making earnest (if, soon to be short-lived) resolutions, and nagging.

Yes, in the last few years, nagging has become part of my holiday ritual. As certain as egg nog and sugar cookies — but a lot less fun.

My teenage daughter, now a junior at the local high school, had a tremendous amount of homework over the winter break. Do I think she deserves to relax, veg out, watch Dance Moms if she wants to? Of course. Do I get anxious when I see her relaxing, vegging out, watching Dance Moms?

Of course.

Two weeks off seems like a long time when it starts. Especially when you're seventeen. The problem is I'm a little older and I know how fast those two weeks will really go. How soon it will all start up again with reading due, papers to turn in, tests to take ... all on the very first day back.

Where was my daughter after midnight last night? Not in bed asleep. By then, even she was asking "Where did those two weeks go?"

Of course, I'm always thinking about how time is flying. And, I'm not just referring to holiday vacations. It seems like yesterday (or at least last week) that my daughter was in preschool, elementary school, middle school. Her grades were great — with surprisingly little effort. (In hindsight, very very very little effort.) Her attitude was ... well, it wasn't what I now call an "attitude." She was cheerful, optimistic. She liked her classes; she liked her teachers. School wasn't the "big bad" it is today.

And, my daughter is by no means alone. Years ago, I would chat with other mothers outside while we waited for the kids to be dismissed. We were optimistic then too. Our daughters were smart and funny and talented and kind. They would continue to be that way forever.

Now we all sit around shell-shocked, drinking wine (or coffee, depending on the daypart) and commiserating. Every kid I know "hates" school.

All of this negativity about school is new and alien to me. I loved school. I loved schoolwork. I loved getting good grades on tests and papers.

Let's face it, I was a nerd!

Actually, I was a nerd in a sea of nerds, an entire building filled with bookish girls and boys just like me, a test school in New York City where being smart meant a lot more than being prom queen.

My daughter isn't me.

Of course, she's not an aspiring prom queen either. Thank goodness I'm not dealing with that level of vacuousness. My daughter's serious. She's not very serious about her school work (unless we're talking "seriously bored" or "seriously unhappy"), but she is very serious about her horse, riding, training, competing and teaching. 

Being less of an athlete myself (my best bet would have been joining the Mathletes in Mean Girls), I am in awe all the time as I watch her control a thousand-pound animal, whether she's jumping fences, negotiating water obstacles or doing the precision dance of dressage.

If she spent half the time studying that she does training, she'd be valedictorian. Blah blah blah.

But, she wouldn't be happy.

She has other skills, of course. Lately she's demonstrated an aptitude for games on her phone (Trivia Crack is a current favorite) and for "multitasking," which also demonstrates her talent for euphemisms, since the term seems to be synonymous with procrastination when there's homework to be done.

Still, she manages to get by and to do reasonably well. Would I like her to be as grade-obsessed as I once was? Yes! Yes, by all means. But, would I be willing to trade her courage in the ring, her strength, her knowledge, dedication and the skills she's developed for it? Tempting. Very tempting, but no.

My daughter will succeed on her terms, not mine.

Now, if she'd only turn off Dance Moms.

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