How much should parents expect from their kids?

Helena Rodriguez

“How come I have to have a mom who cares?”
Those were my daughter’s exact words of frustration after I spent several hours tutoring her in algebra one spring night.
Of all the cruel things a parent could be accused of by their own offspring. I didn’t know whether it was an insult or compliment. I laughed, promising Laura those words would become a classic in our household.
Then rather apologetically, I said, “I’m sorry I’m not an unfit mother. I’m sorry you’re one of those unfortunate kids in the world whose parents check their homework.”
Life can be so cruel. Laura had more important things to do — friends to call, music videos to watch — than waste her time fiddling around with silly numbers and letters that have the power to determine her future college success.
Like other parents, I want my daughter to have it easier than I did. But then again, sometimes it’s the hard lessons learned early that make life easier in the end.
Deep inside, however, I also feel just as frustrated as Laura. I find myself asking, “How far do I push her? And where do I draw the line?”
As parents, we can become obsessed with our children’s failures and successes, often expecting much more from them then we ourselves accomplished at their age. After all, Laura’s going into eighth grade. That magic light bulb in my head didn’t turn on until I was in my sophomore year in high school, but that’s much too late, by today’s standards.
Nevertheless, it was during my sophomore year in high school that I became determined to go to college and made the B honor roll for the first time in my life.
Should I expect more or less from my child? And how should her grades rank in our life priorities? As a person who is still considering a second career in education, that’s a dilemma.
I attended a church renewal while living in Abilene, Texas, this past winter, and was faced with the realization of how much time I spent emphasizing academics with my child versus the amount of time we prayed and read our Bibles together. Talk abut a rude awakening.
With all the emphasis on academic tests, what are we doing to our children? Trying to outsmart the North Koreans or Russians? What about respecting others and giving back to the community. We dream of our children marrying doctors or lawyers. What about family- and charitable-minded individuals?
A recent news story really got my attention. A 16-year-old girl from India was quoted saying, “My entire life will depend on how well I do this year. Girls don’t get a second chance.” The story was about students in that country who are committing suicide because of intense academic pressure.
By the same token, how much is not enough? I certainly don’t want my daughter short-changed and I don’t want her taking easy classes so she can slack off now and then struggle later in college. Still, it’s been a frustrating year. My daughter’s been through after-school tutoring and recently finished three weeks of summer school, and she’s still struggling with math, just like I did in college. Only problem is, she’s doing the same level of math I did in college. What’s a parent to do? Definitely spend more time praying for guidance.

Helena Rodriguez is the lifestyles coordinator for Freedom Newspaper of New Mexico. She can be reached at:
helena_rodriguez@link.freedom.com