Last summer, as our daughter prepared for her first season of cross country, she and I went for a run in the woods. As I offered encouragement and support, she threw back frustrated comments and epic eye-rolls, prompting me to ask how she wanted me to help – should I run ahead and let her make her own way, or run behind to sweep the trail?
Her response – “you can run with me, just don’t lie.”
What lie did she think I told her? That she was doing great.
Standing there in the middle of the forest, I gave her the facts as I saw them – Despite not running for nearly a year, she managed to run a full mile, without stopping, and maintain a good run/walk pace for the next mile. And that was great.
I also promised her that I would always be honest about when she was doing great, and when she was not.
I’ve been thinking about this conversation in the light of recent headlines regarding college admission fraud by several wealthy and high profile parents.
There are so many things wrong with this story, starting with wealthy and successful parents who already have more privilege than most, using their money and influence to ensure their children go to the “right” schools. But I keep wondering why they did it.
I can’t believe it was about setting them up for future success, because clearly, they were going to be fine. Is it about their own egos and a feeling that their children’ success is a reflection on their own performance as parents?
Or is this the end result of parents who have “mowed” a path for their children for so long they don’t know when it’s time to turn off the mower? Who are so determined to give their children “everything” they’ve lost perspective? Who are so programmed to celebrate every little thing their child does that they don’t know how to be honest with them?
It’s more than just being able to say no. It’s about being able to say, “I’m sorry honey, but you didn’t do the work in high school, so your first choice isn’t really a possibility.” Yes, it’s about telling their kids they aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get into a school of their choice and that money should not be able to fix it.
It’s not easy, and I hesitate to offer advice to anyone about anything related to parenting. But I will say this to my children – you can count on your dad and me to be honest with you.
Yes, we will celebrate your performances in school, sports, and life. But we will also tell you when you are off key, off base, unprepared, or out of line.
Yes, we will encourage you to try new things, to do your best, and to shoot for the moon. And we will be here whether you break through the stratosphere, or crash in flames back to earth.
Yes, we will help dig you out of the crash site and help get you back on your feet. But we won’t tell you the flight was spectacular (unless we mean a spectacular failure).
Because in the end, what you need from us is love, encouragement, and honesty.