One of my best friends (call her Abby) is a high school teacher. Not an easy job. Abby is the mother of two tween girls. Also not an easy job. Whenever we talk or get together, I’m like a sponge trying to soak up as much of her wisdom as possible. She is a terrific mother and a wonderful person – two things I, too, strive to be. Although she is facing new challenges these days as her girls grow up, a story she told me recently gave me hope for our youth.
Abby had a difficult student in one of her classes last year (call her Brenna). Brenna had a terrible attitude, never studied, never did her homework, didn’t pay attention in class and was openly hostile toward Abby. Despite repeated attempts on Abby’s part to work with Brenna to improve her grade, Brenna did not put in her time and got an “F” in the class.
Months later, Abby’s eleven year-old daughter (call her Jamie) became a member of the sixth grade soccer team. In order to inspire the girls, Jamie’s coach scheduled a weekend clinic with the high school girls’ soccer team. Guess who was on that team? Right — Brenna. So here’s this group of eleven and sixteen year-old girls introducing themselves and after Jamie said her name, Brenna gives her the evil eye and said, “Oh, so you’re Mrs. X’s daughter. You know, your (not nice word) mother failed me.”
Wherein this spitfire of an eleven year-old looks Brenna square in the face and responds, “My mother didn’t fail you. You failed yourself.”
Imagine an eleven year-old girl, not only having the courage to stand up to a high schooler in a crowd of people, but also saying something so true and so wise. Now you can see why I hope some of her mothering skills rub off on me.
It is easy to be discouraged with the “state” of kids today being brought up as they are in what seems like an age of entitlement, finger-pointing and passing the buck. This story makes me think maybe the pendulum is starting to swing back the other way. The best gift we can give our children is to teach them to be independent, responsible, self-disciplined, self-motivated and to hold themselves accountable for their actions. Then we give them the chance to grow up and raise children in their image. Our job is to provide ample love and guidance along the way.
I had a taste of this the other day when I complimented Em on bringing home an excellent report card. I asked her, “Who are you doing this for?”
In response, she shouted, “Me!”
That is the right answer. For as much as I don’t want to fail her, I especially don’t want her to fail herself.