Dear Kids, Here’s What Made Me Realize I Need to Back Off

A mom realizes she needs to back off of her teens.
I need to apologize to my kids. (Shutterstock/ sanneberg)

Dear Kids,

As I look at you growing up so quickly right in front of me, it feels like the clock keeps ticking faster, which possibly, partly, explains why I am trying to slow it down by learning to meditate and do yoga – things that help me stay more present and get less caught up in the future, especially yours.

Lately, I find myself spending too much time thinking about what’s coming next for you after high school. I realize that it is only natural to some extent. After all, I am your mom and step-mom and want the best for your futures, which, for me, includes each of you walking across a stage to receive diplomas from a solid college or university.

But thanks, in part, to some newfound Zen, I have come to realize that in today’s hyper-competitive, everything-looks-Instagram-worthy world, even that is asking a lot of you. In the past when you have told me that I just can’t understand the future-related pressure that you feel, I probably downplayed it, and on occasion even took a page from your communication books and rolled my eyes. Sorry about that.

Because even though I haven’t saddled you with demands of perfect grades and SAT scores or pushed my, or your dad’s alma maters at you, I can’t claim to have a perfect record when it comes to not getting caught up in the pre-college frenzy. Which is why I want to apologize for some of the especially memorable things that I am guilty of: 

  1. For putting a deck of SAT vocabulary on the dining room table when you were 8. I thought that we could learn a new word every night at dinner. Reprehensible (if you don’t know what it means, look it up; it might be on the exam).
  2. For researching mentors and tutors to help navigate the application and admissions process when you were in 5thgrade. Don’t worry, I quickly stopped.
  3. For mentioning the “C” word when you were all still in middle school. The first time that I did, I remember the confused look that I got in return and then the response: “But why are we talking about this now? I’m only in 7thgrade.”
  4. For thinking that “this would look good on an application” any time that I ever encouraged one of you to pursue an extracurricular. It surely wasn’t the only thing that crossed my mind, but I would be lying if I said that it never had.
  5. For pushing you to push yourselves for the sake of a four-year related outcome. I want you to put yourselves out there because testing is how we grow and how we move past the fears and limits that live in our heads. 
  6. For nudging you to “Find your passion” so that you can know exactly who you are and what you want to do with your life by the age of 17. I am 47 and can’t say that I am much closer to knowing than I was at your age.

I am sure that there are a lot more examples that I could add if I asked for your input. I won’t, though. I don’t need to. College is still three years away and it is your journey, with me playing a supporting role.

I am here to help and will do my best to take a page from the Hippocratic Oath: first do no harm (and no, this is not a subtle hint about my wanting you to go to medical school). I know that your application days will be here with the blink of an eye. Until then, I’ll try not to give you so many reasons to roll yours at me.




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About Melissa Milsten

Melissa Milsten lives in Westchester, New York with her husband, their four teenagers and Ruby the dog (who is sometimes the best behaved member of the family). Her background is in publishing and marketing. When she isn’t working or parenting, you might spot her on a yoga mat or lacing up a pair of sneakers. You can read more about her here

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