Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cafeteria Style Social Life

An impromptu viewing of Mean Girls this weekend caused me to ponder the great philosophical questions of parenting life. I wondered, for example, what I would pick for my children if I could walk down the cafeteria aisle of teenage social existence. What choices would you make?

Would you choose A or B:


A. Star Athlete

B. Mack Daddy Mathlete


A. Valedictorian

B. B+ Student with a good sense of humor and a decent social life


A. Head Cheerleader

B. Marching band French Horn Section Leader


A. Football Player

B. Golf or tennis player


A. Card-carrying member of the "In-Crowd"

B. Card-carrying member of a Motley Crew of cerebral misfits

I choose B every time. Now, don't get your panties in a wad about letting my kids be themselves and tell me to stop trying to dictate their future. I realize, also, that there are many, MANY more social possibilities for teens these days and that very few actually fit into any one of these categories. This is a fantasy exercise people. It's completely hypothetical, on the same level as the "5 Celebrities" game we've all played with our spouses (although some, who shall remain nameless, refuse to give an answer—party pooper!). Just play it. I'm curious to know, given that you've all survived the teenage years, what you would choose for your child to create the best possible high school experience. Here's mine:

Son: Good grades, mathlete, class clown, a little too confident and terrible with the ladies but he doesn't realize it. He wears weird shirts with sayings that I don't always understand and he plays soccer well enough to get some field time during home games.

Daughter: Good grades, yearbook editor, cute with a strong sense of fashion that's a little left of the norm. She plays tennis but doesn't know if she wants to commit to playing for the school team. Her friends are smart and fiercely loyal to each other. They resemble the girls in "The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants"

Man, am I in for a reality check or what?


  1. My son's teacher always used to say, "J. is going to be a preacher! He listens so well, and always remembers the right answers."
    This made my husband CRAZY! He wanted a cool-sporty-musician-kid.
    If only we could handpick, right?
    Perhaps they will say the same about us????

  2. Based on their current personalities, here's what I'm predicting.
    Big Girl: The quiet observer who excels academically and in extra-curricular activities. She'll join the ultra-cool dance troupe, not because it's ultra-cool, but because she's the best dancer they've ever seen. And she'll have a few close friends who love her dearly.
    Little Girl: She'll skate by with B's, only because she can't be bothered to try any harder. She'll be the head cheerleader who is constantly seeking attention and has a huge group of friends who are going to give me gray hair way sooner than necessary.
    Thanks for this little exercise! Now, I'm anxious to see how it pans out. :-)

  3. Wow - what a fitting discussion since my oldest (Thing 1) started high school this week!
    Though fiercely competetive and an avid (almost obsessed) fan when my boys are playing sports, I have never pushed them to participate. In fact, there are seasons when I almost wish they wouldn't. I have always, though, encouraged good study habits, good grades, extra curricular activities such as clubs, student council, etc. I've learned, through my oldest, that it really doesn't matter what I want or suggest...they evolve into their very own person. Period. One of my favorite quotes is "Children are people to be unfolded, not things to be molded" and that's true. So many people compliment me on Thing 1 - how polite he is, how grounded and comfortable with himself he seems to be. None of that is my doing - that's just him. We've given him tools and he has chosen his path and so far, so good.
    But ahhhh, to be the puppetmaster...wouldn't that be wonderful?

  4. Oops - we were supposed to do an exercise. My apologies.
    Thing 1 - he flies under the radar, doesn't crave the limelight like his mom. He is extremely polite and very big hearted. Enjoys his friends and loves sports, especially football and weight-lifting. He is just a good guy - dependable and kind to others. I could do with a few more As sprinkled in here and there but I'm trying to loosen up on that a bit.
    Thing 2 - show-off. Period. That's all I can say. Loves to sing and entertain and make people laugh. He's a good student but he really is a wise arse. I'm not sure where he gets that...he has tons of friends but he's a little young to make the call on what type of school life he'll have. He's pretty much content to hang with whatever kid lands next to him in the cafeteria each day at lunch.

  5. The #1 best thing about getting old is looking at your kids, and feeling complete satisfaction with the way they matured and became wonderful parents, acceptable spouses, and all-around good people. We feel blessed, and get these feelings when we're with the 3 sons we raised, and the 3 daughters we acquired along the way. The 2nd best thing about getting old is not remembering everything that happened during the period we were foolish enough to believe we could change or influence their eventual outcome in any way. I think I'll skip the exercise, with us, it's too late to matter.

  6. You set your standards high. I will be happy if I get through high school without having kids that do drugs or alcohol or have promiscuous sex. The culture of today terrifies me.

  7. Tony at 16 amazes me by managing to sweep all cliqies in a single bound! When he was still at the local highschool he played soccer, ran cross country, played first chair clarinet in the band, got mostly A's, and is an amazing artist and writer. It seems most important to him to be Tony no matter how the rest of the world (read cliques) think he should act. Now at Mississippi School for Math and Science he plays his guitar on the steps while others dance, runs CC and enjoys all his hard classes!
    Edye is just crazy and is definatley her own person but a seven is still navigating the minefiled of life.