Saturday, December 09, 2006
  Thoughts I Had in my Kid's School Today

I'm writing this from the school, in a notebook. The old fashioned kind. I tried the modern kind last week, but I forgot that its batteries run out in only an hour and I started talking to other parents and I lost what I wrote. I haven't written this much long hand for a long time.

Now I want to edit that. The last sentence belongs more towards the end of this writing because I'm anticipating writing such long hand rather than having actually accomplished it. I have written on occasion the paltry paragraph or two in long hand.

It's a different process. It slows things down, lets the brain have more say in between words, but doesn't listen to the brain as much because my thoughts race ahead. I skip letters in words sometimes because my hand is too slow. I am compelled to get the next thought down before it evaporates into the churn of new thoughts vying for the chance to be put down in ink – to be made permanent.

Why am I in the school? It's a Saturday morning. My children are taking tests for the gifted program they are a part of. They do not like the tests because the tests are boring and take away from their free day. There are kids here today who are so frightened they cry or throw up. Testing anxiety for some of them, pure and simple, even if they know the material very well. But there are some kids here that are sacrificing their Saturday and confidence to their parents' ambitions.

I have seen parents yell at the administrators who are simply giving them their children's test scores that say their child is not suited for the program. I hope the child is not berated. Children should be celebrated for what they are, not made into something that they aren't.

Last week, (the one in which I lost my work because of the battery) I wrote about overhearing the conversation of two parents speaking about what they want their children to be, or rather what schools would best help their children become a doctor or a lawyer.

A doctor or a lawyer- only the best schools for that, definitely. I asked myself and I would have asked them if I were a braver person, "Is that why we have our kids in this program? Is it to put them under high stress in college only to have even more stress on their jobs? To give them work that divorces them away from family?

Not to say that these aren't worthy professions, that there isn't a great amount of good that comes of them. (Though I hold my reservations for some kinds of lawyers.)

It is the mention of those two jobs together, "a doctor or lawyer", in elementary school, in regards to a seven year old child, that gives me pause. It is the goal of something big, prestigious, well respected, lots of money – that is what that phrase says.

The ambition ignores who the child actually is and seeks after a difficult life for the child in order to gain recognition from everyone else in the world, when they only need the love of their own family and the recognizing of who they really are.

Being a doctor, a lawyer, a writer, a teaching, a CEO, a computer programmer, or whatever else a person is will only bring one joy of that is what they are well suited for and enjoy. If that is true, then they will be successful and secure.

Being loved for who they are will teach them to accept others. They will gain the capacity for compassion, generosity, self-confidence and the love of friends and family. Those are the markers of a life well lived.

My hand aches. I haven't written this much longhand for a long time.
 
Comments:
Hey now, you have a friend who's an attorney and actually likes what he does and doesn't chase ambulances(note the use of the term attorney, rather than "lawyer" which seems to have become somewhat of a slur these days). I have to admit though, that at least seven out of ten attorneys I know aren't very happy people and end up sacrificing time from friends and families in order to maintain their careers and salaries. I've jumped off the track somewhat by going from law firm (the equivalent of a consulting job) to in-house (pays less, but more time with family), although many out there would think I've truly gone to the dark side by being an in-house attorney for Microsoft. I hope I'm somewhat redeemed by working in the entertainment and devices division on the Xbox and other fun things where Microsoft isn't considered a bully.

To your point about parental expectations and pressure, I think that I am where I am now because I had no parental expectations or pressure. The test anxiety follows some of these people all the way through college and law school. I remember studying for the LSAT (test needed to go to law school) with a guy who's parents and in-laws expected him to go to Harvard and support his wife in the style she had become accustomed to in her father's house (a doctor). The test, basically a 3 hour test of logic and reading comprehension, is challenging and some people do good on those types of tests naturally, but this guy didn't. On the day of the test I remember seeing him and others go to the restrooms between sessions to vomit and who ultimately didn't do that good because they were so stressed they couldn't focus. At the end of the day, I did great because I was an electrical engineering student very accustomed to logical analysis, but mostly because I felt no pressure from parents, wife or anyone to go to a particular law school, or to go to law school at all.

I live in Silicon Valley where the pressure on kids is immense. I'm hoping that I can take the same tact as my parents did and not put any pressure at all on my kids to perform in school (although with them it was more that they honestly didn't care much about school, report cards, learning of any kind, etc.). I think it's working so far, my daughter, Sydney, recently came home from school and told of a conversation she had with her friend, an Indian girl who's parents are both engineers and who want her to become an attorney. The little girl told Sydney that her parents wanted her to become an attorney and study math and science, but that she didn't like math and science and didn't know if she wanted to become an attorney. Without batting an eye, Sydney told her, you can be anything you want to be, and you're a very good artist, so if you don't like math, that's OK, you could become a very good artist. I'm proud of my daughter for spreading a message that kids don't have to succumb to the career choices foisted on them by their parents, but happier to see that she's received the message from her father, the attorney, that all I want for her is to be happy and do something that she loves (even if heaven forbid she ends up being becoming an attorney (girl's pretty darn good at logical thought and negotiation/persuasion, but those skills will serve her well whatever she decides to become and being an attorney is a lot of stress, and one of the careers with the highest percentage of alcohol and drug abuse problems).

Anyway, the attorney's rambling 2 bits.
 
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A Mormon housewife who loves truth, science, rational thought, and reasonable action.

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