parenting and school stress

two nights ago i was waked up at 1am by my daughter, who was crying because she was exhausted and couldn't see the end of the project she was working on for school.  i tried to coach her a bit, from my bed, about finishing, and then finally, when nothing else was working, i got up and helped her by cutting out segments of text she had written and pasting them (under her direction) on the board of her presentation.  we finally went to sleep at 3am.

these days it seems like nights like this are not that uncommon.

i think about my own high school days:  i remember talking, sometimes at great length, with my father about my papers later in high school, and certainly in college-- learning how to write was, for me, a long and arduous process.   i also remember staying up all night sometimes to finish a paper for school. i DON'T remember my parents being involved most days in my homework as i am in my daughters'.  nor do i remember the homework being so daunting-- i was not staying up all night most nights, or even most weeks-- in fact i think i stayed up all night MAYBE half a dozen times in all of high school.  my daughters, on the other hand, stay up very late several nights a week to get all of their homework done.

and i hear, from my friends with slightly older children, that it gets worse.  kids with anxiety issues related to school that are affecting their health, kids and parents spending months working together on college applications--  everyone in it together with a very high level of tension and labor.  and for what?    so that kids will get into the highest level colleges and maintain that level of anxiety, tension, and labor?

i agree that it is important that children take school seriously.  it is important that any of us do the best we can at whatever endeavor we take on.  but what are we striving for in stressing-out our teenagers to this degree?  when did parents start being so involved in teenagers' every day homework?  when did high schools start requiring so much that many, many parents have to be this involved?  what does it teach our children about their future lives that we are working so hard to help them to achieve so much?

what i want to do is to give my daughters the message that i am proud of them for all the things that they can achieve on their own, right now, at their current level.  i will help them with their math homework when they get stuck, or to understand an assignment that is not making sense, and yes-- i will help them to learn how to write.  BUT-- i want my daughters to know that i have enormous confidence in them-- and that their ability to achieve academically will continue to grow, as it has throughout school, without my help.

AND i also want to teach them that who they are, regardless of their academic achievement, is enough.


this photo, btw, is a corner of my design studio in the back of the shop.  the couch doesn't quite fit-- but it is kinda great, isn't it?  and i am doing a color study of creams, and green-ish/gray off-whites and the swatches keep getting moved around on the wall and the couch.  

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