Monday, January 11, 2016

Pulling back the veil

I took Natalie for driving practice yesterday at the UNC Friday Center parking lots, which is an area we are getting to know quite well, between using it for biking practice for Graham and now this. On the way there, I began a discussion with Natalie of some of the big topics: including some of the complexities of my career path and how much stress they have induced at times.

I wanted to talk to her about goal-directedness in her own educational path, which is as thorny a question as one can get on. On the one hand, it's good for her to have a sense of the things she likes and to explore them in depth, and she is as pre-law as you can get and still be in high school. On the other hand, she's not even fricking 16 yet, and we want for her to retain an openness to the world and a sense of wonder and not get in this paranoid lock-down if-I-don't-do-every-extracurricular-possible-I-won't-get-into-Yale-and-my-life-will-be-over mindset, as is all too encouraged in today's high-performing high school cultures.

But how to direct her? In the course of the discussion, I actually talked to her about my own stress symptoms, some of which she observes in mornings, and also when I'm cranky and irritable, and then towards the end I said what I think is true, which is that parents feed the mental illness of Ivy League focus because we fear for the future because the world has been changing so quickly. (At least in every regard except that affluent white people have it easier than others.)

And in so doing, I pulled back the veil of parental infallibility, under which I labored until relatively late in adolescence. I mean, I saw my dad do some fucked up shit, which I won't go into here, and part of me knew my mom was in some way imperfect too, but the bedrock elemental presupposition that my parents were more or less perfect and that money more or less grew on trees persisted for a long long time.

And I wonder whether it was wise to have pulled back the veil, to have said to her directly that we don't know certain things, that we have fears, and that they to no small extent make us who we are as "grown ups."  Of course she knows. But it's sort of like Santa and the Easter Bunny, only bigger.


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