I let it happen again yesterday.

I was just sitting there, casually conversing with some parents, when someone asked, “So, what classes are your twins taking next year?”

I started explaining how we decided not to take all advanced courses, and how we let them choose a few classes that they did not enjoy at the grade-level instead of honors, and that’s when she said it.

“Oh, my daughter is taking AP [whatever].”

And someone else said, “Well, my son needs to find another activity so he can get in to National Honor Society.”

And another parent exclaimed, “I wish there were more AP classes for 9th grade. I think there are a lot of kids ready for the challenge.”

That’s when my heart started beating a little faster and I could feel my palms sweat.

I get that feeling a lot when parents start discussing what their kids are doing in high school. I’m a pretty confident person, but without a crystal ball, it’s tough to know what’s right for your own kid. I find it’s a complete guessing game, and sometimes the stakes feel high.

And if I am being honest, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in it, it’s hard not to want to shout to the world, “Hey, I think my kid is awesome and smart and capable and can do that, too; we’re just choosing not to follow that path.” 

I could feel myself getting defensive—and a little competitive. I knew deep down that it was utterly ridiculous. But I couldn’t stop it.

That ugly feeling stuck with me for most of the day, and it wasn’t until I was back in my car driving home by myself that I could think clearly.

You see, the thing is, we decided weeks ago that we wanted our kids to enjoy their high school experience. We talked with them at length, and my husband and I talked together, and I spoke with some of their future high school teachers—and I feel extremely confident that we’ve carved out a path that will work beautifully for them.

Some of it is non-traditional, so I had to put my foot down with some of the teachers. “Yes, I’ve seen my daughter’s test scores, but she does not enjoy language arts, and she’s pushing herself in math and science,” I said to one department head as he tried to convince me she should be in a more advanced class. “I think taking regular English will be great for her, and will not stress her out with her other academic and extra curricular activities.”

I mean, is my daughter’s entire life going to fall apart if she doesn’t take 9th grade honors English? But yet, some times—and some people—make me feel that way.

And when I doubt myself, when I wonder if the choices we made as a family are right for my daughters, I am reminded that our high school principal said there were dozens of students from our school district who were hospitalized last year—not for drugs and alcohol abuse, but for stress, depression, and anxiety.

It’s not those parents’ faults that I got all weird. Their plans for their kids may be exactly right for them.

But as a parent, I need to talk the talk for the path we decided to walk. I need to do what’s best for my own kids and not get so wrapped up in what anyone else is doing. I need to remind myself that my daughters often know what is right and best for them, and while I should listen and consider why different parents choose different paths for their kids, feeling less-than or pressured is never a good reason to change a decision for my children.

I need to feel confident in our choices, and share them, so maybe other parents who may feel like I do feel more confident in theirs, too.

And I remind myself that my self-worth as a parent is not tied up in how many advanced classes my kid takes, but it is vested in raising a well-rounded, healthy, happy adult.

Why is it so hard?

I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time I feel my pulse quicken and I feel that little seed of doubt growing when I feel like my kids may be missing out.

But, I hope I keep quashing it down and reminding myself what we as a family deem important.

Because I think if we put a premium on raising kids who are content in their lives, then the kids truly will be alright.

Originally published on Playdates on Fridays by Whitney Fleming

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Whitney Fleming

Whitney is a mom of three teen daughters, a freelance writer, and co-partner of the site parentingteensandtweens.com You can find her on Facebook at WhitneyFlemingWrites.