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  • Mama PhD

    Mothers attempting to balance parenthood and academics.

Halfway Through
May 18, 2014 - 5:12pm

Ben finished his last class of the year yesterday. Being Ben, he still has a few assignments to finish up, but he is basically done, and on the whole he has done really well. His papers have been thoughtful, original and well received, and he has excelled in his practica in both music and audio engineering.

Sometimes I wish I could go back in time to some of our most fraught periods and reassure myself that we would arrive at this point. I'm not sure I would believe my 2014 self, especially considering all of the gray hair and wrinkles that have been added over the past 10 years.

It could be that if I had been less anxious, more laissez-faire about his academic deficits when he was younger, he would have sunk. I'm glad, overall, that I was active in searching out reasons for his academic difficulties, working with his schools to address these issues, and explaining him to teachers who, despite his IEP, persisted in believing that he was lazy and entitled, rather than overwhelmed and confused. I'm glad I recognized that his extraordinary musical gifts were important to his self esteem and sense of belonging in school, and that I fought every attempt to take away the "privilege" of studying music as a consequence of slipping grades.

What I'm not proud of is how often I took out my anxiety on Ben. It wasn't just nagging, but occasional yelling, and once, when I was afraid he was going to flunk out of the magnet school we had pushed so hard to get him into, a rant about how he was going to end up in a horrible high school with gangs and drugs, and we wouldn't be able to help him. I regretted that one immediately, and apologized, but I know there were microrants that I didn't recognize as damaging at the time, and that I very much wish I could mitigate now.

We all survived, and Ben is thriving. He is doing fine academically; he is surrounded by gifted and interesting friends; and most important, he is a kind, loving person with a powerful social conscience. Whatever my failings, he has forgiven them; we enjoy spending time together and somehow our deep bond survived all of the turmoil. I know this is not the end of the story by any means — he has many challenges and temptations ahead. But I'm confident now that he will meet them with strength and thoughtfulness.

I can't shout back to my former self, but I can give a shout-out to other parents out there whose kids for whatever reason don't fit the conventional mold of good student. Everyone's struggles are different, of course, but I feel it is important to say how much I wish I had spent more time enjoying the sweet, funny child I had, and less time fretting over what he wasn't.


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