When I started writing this blog daily almost seven years ago, I always had a nagging question in the back of my mind whenever I would dole out parenting advice for those going through the college admissions process—will I be able to walk this talk when I’m a parent myself? Now that I’ve joined the ranks, that answer is not entirely clear yet. Parenting a one-and-a-half-year-old is a lot different than parenting a teenager. I’ve still got some time left to gear up for his high school years.
But while I’m still comfortable standing by my advice not to helicopter parent, to prepare kids for independence, and to do your most important job well during the college application process, I do have a sense of how hard it might be to follow it perfectly when my little guy is a teenager (probably one who won’t be interested in any of Pop’s college admissions advice).
Madeline Levine–a founder at Challenge Success and the author of Teach Your Children Well: Why Values and Coping Skills Matter More than Grades, Trophies, or “Fat Envelopes”—shares this post, which I really appreciated as a reminder that even the best advice isn’t always easy to follow, even for those who prescribe it. As she relates:
“In the crazy, coincidental way that things work, as I sat down to write this piece, my youngest son, who is in law school, calls me. He has forgotten to sign up for a course he needs; he’s upset and uncertain how to proceed. This is a ‘put your money where your mouth is’ moment for me. He is a great kid, works hard, has been quite independent throughout school, and this is his first snafu. I know I’m not going to fix it for him, but I also know that I’m going to help him. I re-read a couple of my own book chapters. After all this time, I’m surprisingly conflicted. I could smooth his path in a heartbeat. I know this would be a mistake.”
I share this to remind parents that doing what’s best for your kids isn’t always easy. You’re not doing a bad job if you don’t get it right every time. Even the experts sometimes struggle to follow their own advice when it comes to their own children, whether they’re parenting toddlers or law students.
Nobody is suggesting that you have to parent perfectly. You just have to consistently show up and try to do what’s best for your kids, even when those actions aren’t necessarily what feels best for you.
It’s more important to make the effort than it is to be mistake-free.