My daughter is a junior in high school and it seems that every time I get together with my friends, sit in the bleachers at a school sports event or run into another parent at the grocery store, the subject of where they are considering applying to college comes up.
I understand that it’s the current situation most of us are facing right now. I get that it’s new and uncharted territory for those whose oldest are this age. I appreciate hearing tips such as when juniors should be taking the SATs, when people are starting to visit schools, and how much help they will get with their college essays in school.
What makes me uncomfortable are those parents who share too much about their child’s college prospects, which usually comes off as bragging.
You know them. They tend to post their child’s report cards on Facebook. They tell anyone who will listen about their child’s SAT scores. When their child is invited to attend an expensive, academic summer program at a prestigious university, we all know about it. These are the same parents who, in grade school, told everyone about their “gifted” child who was being intellectually unchallenged by our school system.
This type of parent always seems to drop the big “H” word. “We’ll be visiting Harvard, Princeton and Dartmouth,” they might say, unsolicited, in the frozen foods section. Next, they go on to share their child’s stellar SAT scores, perfect GPA and membership in the honor society.
I clench my lips closed. I have so much to say. I want to retort with my daughter’s resume and prospects, but I don’t. I’ve been goaded into this before. A dear friend with only the best of intentions asked where we were looking and I shared, not only the “stretch” schools that would make any parent beam, but the “maybes” and “safeties”, too. She, however, didn’t reciprocate with any information about her child, leaving me feeling dirty and brash. Had I said too much? Was I boastful? Did I leave her feeling low?
I spend a fair amount of time perseverating on this topic. My daughter is a competitive athlete who is being recruited by a lot of colleges. Her sports and her academics put her in a really good position for a scholarship to a great school. (See, I can’t help myself.) But when is it okay to simply burst with pride, and when is it completely obnoxious, and possibly even hurtful to others?
Now, my daughter works incredibly hard to excel in her sport. She practices six days a week and drives across state twice weekly to study with a legend. When she reaches a new personal best in her sport, I go ballistic. There are so many times where she comes home downtrodden and cries herself to sleep. My joy when she does well is for her joy, and it is hard not to share. But who is not to say the same about their child in academics? Some children work really hard to get those grades. Who am I to say they ought to keep it on the down-low?
Another reason to keep my mouth shut is that she may not actually get into any of those super-prestigious schools. And if she does, if there isn’t a scholarship along with the acceptance, we may not be able to send her.
In addition, I don’t think she would appreciate me telling people her business. Who am I to use her accomplishments to boost my ego? I imagine she would be mortified.
What I do know is this: some kids are not rock stars. And that’s okay. I wasn’t a rock star. I did fine. We don’t all need to go to an Ivy to prove our worth. Some kids are simply normal. Others excel in ways that don’t show on paper. Some kids have learning disabilities. Others have mental health challenges. Others have addiction issues. How would you feel if you realized you bragged about your kid to the parent of a child with special needs? Would that make you feel big?
It could even be more subtle than that. You might tell someone, with a huge sigh of relief, that at least your child got into their “safety” school. You might go on to say that, “It’s certainly not where she wants to go, but at least it’s something.” How do you know that their child isn’t dreaming of going to that school?
Why do we feel compelled to brag? Do we need to provide proof that we are better parents than others? Do we need to finally reveal that obnoxious little kid whose parents proclaimed as “gifted”, and let his parents know our kid is better than his kid, after all? Are we that insecure and desperate to feel superior to others?
My advice to myself going forward is to burst with pride at my child’s accomplishments- to my spouse, to my parents and to my in-laws. That’s it. That is the safe zone in which I can bask in the glory of my child’s prowess. Why? Because those people have nearly as much skin-in-the-game as I do. They live for this stuff.
A New Year’s resolution for me is the Non-Disclosure Rule. I will do everything in my power not to overshare about my daughter’s college prospects. Maybe then I can keep myself from acting out exactly what I find so loathsome in others.