I drove a gaggle of 8th- and 9th-grade girls home recently, and a boy’s name came up in conversation.
“Oh, I remember him,” I stated casually from the front seat. “He was a sweetheart in elementary school.”
“Not anymore!” I heard from the third row. “He is the worst. He’s mean to like, everyone.”
“Really?” I replied but kept my mouth closed for the rest of the conversation as I listened to a few of the things this boy had said and done the last few years.
I actually thought this young man was one of the good ones. He was an honor roll student, on a competitive lacrosse team, and recently won an award at school. His mom was kind and volunteered. I remember seeing a photo of him going on a mission trip with his church.
He had all the makings of a great kid. He certainly looked good on paper.
Except, according to these seven girls who went to different schools and ran in different circles, he wasn’t. Not even close.
That’s the problem today in our overscheduled-, overachieving-, overzealous-about-our-children’s-success culture. We are creating good-on-paper kids.
We are focused on building up resumes, instead of filling up hearts.
We want to create the illusion of leaders, instead of teaching the skills to motivate others. We want to increase the numbers on GPAs and standardized test scores and the number of AP classes our students take, instead of teaching life skills and coping mechanisms and self-care.
We want our kids to look good on paper and to the rest of the world, even though these kids often feel so anxious, depressed and tired they crumble when life feels too much—or worse, they lash out at others.
I don’t want to raise good-on-paper kids.
So, we’ve made tough choices in our family this year, even when they haven’t been popular. We chose sports clubs based on culture instead of competitiveness. We picked classes based on interests instead of labels such as honors and AP. We are planning more family outings instead of driving to more planned activities. We want to volunteer and donate more and spend less.
And although my kids may not look as strong on paper as other kids, I feel like I have more time to encourage them in their hobbies and passions. I am a more patient mother. I can pour more love into these girls every single day.
My end goal is to send kids out into this world who are happy, who know how to cope, and who know how to care for themselves and others when life gets tough.
I never see a line for that on a resume.
Of course, you can have both. You can help your child put together an impressive college application and raise a great kid.
But I believe as parents, we can’t lose sight of what we really want for our sons and daughters: to be happy, well-rounded adults.
I don’t want to raise good-on-paper kids. I want my children to be as impressive in living color than any words you can read about them on a white sheet.
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