All-Clean Softwash March 2019


MARCH 2019

How We Balance Fun and the Future Multiple-Choice Parenting

My daughter, Justine, is in eleventh grade. While that’s known nationwide

nature. Social media, where every accomplishment is broadcasted to the world and recorded for posterity, only gives them more people to compare themselves to. In this context, being able to don the sweatshirt of the university or college you’ll be attending is not too different from having a fancy new pair of sneakers or eating at the coolest restaurant — it’s something to brag about. Like it or not, that’s just part of the environment today’s adolescents inhabit. But my husband, Tim, and I have it extremely lucky. Justine is a natural student and very secure in her sense of self. She takes AP classes knowing that all the stress and extra work will pay off once she gets to college and can forgo those boring required classes. She attends her SAT tutoring session every week with a smile. Don’t get me wrong; she needs encouragement in the same way every young student does. Heck, these kids devote well over 40 hours per week to school; who wouldn’t need a little pick-me-up here and there? Mostly, though, what Tim and I find ourselves doing is giving Justine permission to just be a kid. She is so driven and steadfast in her pursuits that we often tell her to slow down, chill out for a minute, and enjoy her teenage years before adulthood arrives in full force. Often, those respites involve the theater, which is one of Justine’s major passions. This spring, for example, she’s taking a trip to New York City to see a quartet of Broadway If you have a child in high school, especially one going through the college admission wringer, I hope you’ll balance your hopes for their future with an appreciation for their present. It’s not always easy to step back and let kids enjoy their youth. But as pressing as the college choice is, it’s their childhood that’ll be gone forever before you know it. You’ll want to look back on these days and reflect that your child didn’t have to choose between academics, extracurriculars, and good old- fashioned fun. Instead, they enjoyed all of the above. shows. The hope is that she’ll be so busy and enthralled that the SATs will be a distant memory for a few days.

as junior year, it may be more accurate to call it “SAT time.”

That’s certainly been true at our house since the holidays. Every year, guidance counselors and high school educators tell their students that the SAT is just one piece of the college admissions puzzle, and they shouldn’t put undue stress on themselves trying to achieve the best score possible. And every year, students put that stress on themselves anyway. As a parent, one thing I’ve noticed is that college admission, and school in general, is much more competitive today than it was when I was a student. These days, kids are expected to start preparing for college applications the moment they step foot in high school — and in some cases, well before that. Some of this pressure is the result of the influx of students attending college over the past few decades. Do you remember the days when graduating high school without going to college was perfectly normal and acceptable? Well, those days are pretty much gone, and “if you go to college” has been replaced with “where are you going to college.”

That “where” is the fundamental source of stress, if you ask me. High schoolers are comparative people by

–Jennifer Ricca


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