December 16, 2010

The Alumni Notes Version

(Alumni Notes)

I had a fantastic time participating in a combined Twitter chat last night, with folks from both the Parentella (mostly parents) and CampusChat (mostly counselors) communities chiming in.

One of the things I love about these chats is the free-ranging nature of the discussion, even though that can also sometimes be a real challenge. I am grateful to both Amanda (of Parentella) and Kelly (of Smart College Visit fame) for their work in making it happen, and am still trying to wrap my brain around all of the interesting perspectives that were shared last night.

Several "take aways" for me came several hours later (have I mentioned that I'm a slow thinker?), as I continued to muse about the stream of comments that were related to what parents can do in support of their children achieving excellence.

Of course I thought of this Erich Fromm quote: "Few parents have the courage & independence to care more for their children’s happiness than for their success."

So one question is, what kind of excellence are we talking about?

It being mid-December, I also started thinking about students dealing with disappointment in the college search process (and in life), and that led me to thinking about the true-life stories we parents tell our children.

If you're a college graduate, do you remember the first time you read the alumni notes section of your school's alumni magazine? I do. I remember the sinking feeling I felt as I mentally compared my life's accomplishments with those of the people who had sent in descriptions of their triumphs. They were running their own companies, being named to advisories boards, welcoming beautiful children to the world, publishing novels... I was just trying to learn the admissions ropes at UPenn!

Of course then I quickly realized... it's only the people who are having amazing years who submit their class notes to the alumni magazine. Not too many people sends in a class note that says, "Spending every other weekend in NH with my ailing mother while struggling to make both ends meet since my partner lost her job in the economic downturn."

Do the true-life stories we share with our children represent the "alumni notes" version of our lives? Or do we let them see our struggles, too? Have your children seen you work and work at something that doesn't come easily to you? Have they seen you receive bad news and bounce back? Have they witnessed you clawing your way back up from a knock-down? Are we modeling persistence and resilience? I wonder.

(Cross-posted over on Relax. No, really.)
Kelly has already posted
takeaway tweets and a transcript,
so go check that out, too!)

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