Monday, May 14, 2007

Who gets to say?

When do I find out if I'm a success in life? Do I receive a candy-gram, or does someone deliver balloons to my door? Will they throw confetti and sing "For she's a jolly good...whatever"? I just want to know when I get the report card, or the certificate, or the plaque to hang on my wall? And most of all, who gets to say whether I'm a success?

Am I a success as a homeschooler? Who gets to say? What are the parameters? Where is the checklist so I can see how I'm doing? Am I a success if my children graduate from high school, or only if they do so with good grades and a college scholarship? Are they "successful people" if all they do is sit and play video games or have we all failed miserably?

Am I a successful mom? Who gets to say? Where is the yardstick for comparison? Am I successful if my kids are polite in public, or only if they do volunteer work for the poor or go on missions trips?

And what about relationships? Am I a success if I have people I can smile at and make small talk with at church, or does success require soul-mate status with at least one other person?

How about career? How about success as a house keeper, cook, homemaker, teacher?

Everything, everything, everything seems to be dependent on input from outside. How do we know who we are sometimes without input? We are all like "Number 5" in the movie Short Circuit, wanting "More input, Steph-an-ie!" Without it, we don't seem to know what to think about ourselves. It seems that in a world that is more and more detached from community and extended families, we are more and more dependent outside input to know who were are and how we are doing.

In fact, I wonder if the very detachment from the solid foundations of community and family have left the void in the first place. These anchors in the past secured our place in life, even if it also limited our possibilities. Losing, or breaking free, of the anchors has proved a mixed-bag. I'm reminded again of The Paradox of Choice by Schwartz. Having more choices doesn't always make us happier.

This past week I've been trying to come to grips with a son who has blown his final year of high school, and who shows no lasting ability to concentrate on the future. I don't feel like a success, and he doesn't look like one. Yet, even as I worry and fret, I know the heart in that young man. I know not just what "could be, if only," I also know what is, right now. So each day is a balancing act of trying not to let any measure of "success" be how I look at him, or myself either. Especially now, as his friends get ready for college, have graduation that laud their many merits and successes, and as proud parents talk about the scholarships and the plans for "great things." I am here praying my sweet boy will find his way in the maze he has, in part, created for himself. (With a little too much help from his parents, perhaps.)


julieunplugged said...

Oh how I get where you're coming from! Remember - Noah quit high school after his junior year and never did finish or graduate. He took his senior year off and the next year too. I had to get to that bottom level assessment where a young adult who was not a danger to himself or others and who I enjoyed being with was enough for me.

Also, one time another mom asked me if Noah liked cool stuff. Somehow that helped me as it seemed he did.

I used to think it would be so sad if we died without seeig how everything turned out. Heck, I still think that's sad. But there's nothing to be done about it.

Another friend mentioned that he works in what he calls micro-ministry - meaning he works in small definable social groups... the family is the ultimate unit. So at least in this sense, you are still married to Will and you have created a family with love and commitment to each other.

I wish we did get report cards and could know if we had succeeded. In the end, we journey through.

carrie said...

I know I was sort of all over the place in this post. Part of the catalyst was Mother's Day and not wanting to feel like a failure while someone talked about the great art of mothering and all their perfect kids from the pulpit. Thankfully, that didn't happen. But, none-the-less, I got started thinking about whether I really am a failure or a success, and who the heck gets to say anyway. I'm not even sure I am qualified to say! LOL!

Like you, Julie, my kids and my life are a mixed bag. There are things I love about my children. I mean, I really think they are special people who are loving and interesting much of the time. On the other hand, they absolutely drive me crazy, and yes, they have disappointed me. They have failed at things I know they can succeed at. And I admit too that I get embarrasssed. My son, the one who has tested in the gifted range for math, got a what in physics???

Just last week we got his physic and trig grades. We weren't real happy. I was reminded, for some perverse reason, about those braggy Christmas letters some people send. I've often threatened to send an "anti-brag" letter, and when I knew L's grades, I thought of how I'd put that in a Christmas letter...

"Our oldest son, Luke, basically failed physics last year and barely passed trig. He scraped through in Western Lit, did well in economics and somehow BS'd his way through civics. But enough about that! This fall he will start a tech degree at our local community college which should allow him plenty of time to continue to perfect his gaming skills! It will also give him more time to watch anime until all hours of the night, and text message his girlfriend. This is so what er'd envisioned for him all those years ago while he lay in his crib, asleep."

Seriously're right, we are an intect family. We love each other and most get along. We have created a support network for our children and I honestly think they feel safe here. We're not perfect, but my kids like us and seek us out to spend time with us. Our future son-in-law came up to my room the other night when we were the only ones in the house and talked for an hour and a half. He sought out my company and advice. We laughed. I was so touched at how good our relationship is. I get hugs multiple times a day from my teenage boys. Luke asked me to dance twice at his prom. Thomas made it a point to sit with me at church on Mother's Day with his arm around me most of the time.

Success or failure?? I guess it depends on what question your asking. ;-)