“Even if I got into an Ivy League school, I wouldn’t want to go.” Said my thirteen-year old casually wiping out a decade of my life. We were driving and I had ‘oh so casually’ brought up the subject of the ISEE, the Independent School Entrance Exam she will have to take this fall. My daughter’s concern was when, during her test preparation, she could actually get the phone I promised would be her reward for tackling this important test.
“I don’t want to go into academia, so why does it matter?” She said confident in her skewed logic.
“Are you trying to kill me,” I finally asked. A mother can only swallow so many dreams in a single conversation.
“I want you to have every advantage in this life. “I said. “I went to Wellesley and it’s helped me throughout my life, even though I didn’t choose an academic career,” I added, gulping down my fear as I drove my first born to her orthodontist appointment.
“Wellesley is not an Ivy League school, mom.” “That’s not the point. I want you to go to the best school you can get into.” And, it’s my choice where I go to high school, “she said ending the conversation before launching into an analysis of iPhone choices. I navigated traffic and commented on my daughter’s music. Barely containing my urge to explain, at great length, the benefits of a world class education.
Like all parents, I want my daughter – and sons – to be happy. Happy. Achievement. Happy. Mastery. Happy. Tasks completed. Happy.
But what if my definition of happiness isn’t my daughter’s? What if she’s destined to be a dilettante? A beach bum? Or worse? What if her definition of success is repellant to me? And, what if this vile version of success makes her happy? Can my liver, marriage – our very existence on this earth – survive?
Gas pedal. Brake. Turn signal. Focus on the task at hand.
I want so much for my daughter. I want her to achieve what I envision I might’ve been, what I’d hope she’d be when I was pregnant, what her IQ tests show she has the potential to achieve. I want our privilege to give her all that she needs to save the world – or at the very least improve the lot of those in a corner of it.
I, I, I…. I want her to be the Olympic Equestrian, Physicist, Super Model I dreamt of while she was gestating. Or at least have the education to pursue all of the above. I want her to be better than I am in every way. To know all I’ve learned in my 51 years at 13. I, I, I….
I am not my daughter. I am her guide, her port in the storm that we call this life. I’m the one who loves her more than life itself. I am also her cheerleader who hopes that the promise of an iPhone inspires my fierce one to kick ISEE’s ass. And that she’ll want to ride that test’s results as far as they will take her.