Having sent two of our six daughters off to college, we have learned a few things. So before the younger four are to follow, we’ve been making several adjustments in the ways that we are parenting and preparing the next group for college and the world. However, we may also be facing some bigger changes, that while possibly necessary – at least initially they will cause discomfort and will be uncharted roads for our family.
The older two didn’t have the benefit of our red pill world view. Personally, I think I did something’s okay … Married for 20+ years, encouraged personal relationships with God, encouraged community involvement, tried to instill a sense of modesty. I home-schooled them through 5th grade, (imparting a love of literature) and then continued to be involved in their education by volunteering at their schools.
But some things need re-examining:
In high school, the 2 oldest spent nearly 95% of their free time either playing a sport or studying so neither left for college very well rounded. I was too discipline orientated and often didn’t understand this method didn’t allow them to develop the self control tools they would need to be successful once my barriers disappeared. I didn’t facilitate Henry’s leadership in our home – but instead challenged him and diluted his role pretty consistently.
I had bought into the notion that today’s man would want a strong and independent woman. I didn’t think much about feminine/masculine attraction and I definitely wasn’t thinking about marriage as the end goal when planning out at least the immediate future for my older girls.
But now, our second daughter is struggling to navigate the hook-up culture on her campus. It breaks my heart to hear her explanation as to why so many girls stay plugged into the cycle. Essentially they’ve bought into the lie, a mix of everyone is doing it and if you’re not doing it there must be something wrong with you. And don’t forget they’ve been told their entire lives that meaningless sex is the prize that we’ve been fighting for so they had better seize the opportunity! The first girl to step away and even hint at the idea that hooking up is neither enjoyable nor beneficial would be quickly ostracized by the group, declared a prude (definition “displaying sound judgment in practical affairs”), or a loser or any other term that would accomplish the purpose of keeping everyone in line! 18-22 year old girls might be unashamed and reckless but they are probably not going to reject the status quo when all they really want is to fit in and be accepted.
My self reflection comes on the heels of my college aged daughters coming home for spring break. There visit started me thinking “if I believe being a wife and a mother brings fulfillment to a woman and if this is the ultimate end goal – what did I do … what am I doing … to raise daughters who are able to attract, fall in love and then marry a man?” – And taking it further, wouldn’t it seem logical to plan their days to allow time to teach them how to present themselves to the world in a way that would accomplish said goal?
It is not hard to find entire blogs written by men exploring how they were lied to by well meaning but clueless adults (usually female) who held steadfast to the mantra “just be nice and you’ll find a nice girl” – they were nice and they are alone. What are we, adult women, teaching our daughters and will it enable them to become fulfilled wives and mothers?
I think the answer is No! I am starting to realize that everything that I thought was ‘right’ is actually ‘wrong’ … and the first thing that comes to my mind is the role of sports in the lives of my daughters. In our house, playing sports takes up a huge amount of time. Could that time be better spent if they played at a lower level?
And then I overheard this conversation last week between Daughter #2 (who is attending college on a full basketball scholarship) and one of her younger siblings:
Daughter #2: “if you are good at both sports <basketball and soccer> then concentrate on soccer”
Sibling: “why? I like playing both and you play basketball and you love it, right”
Daughter #2: “because basketball is the least feminine sport there is and boys have a preconceived idea of what a female basketball player looks/acts like and I hate it – given the chance I would have concentrated on either volleyball or soccer…
She continues: and so many of the girls playing college basketball are gay so boys are constantly making jokes about it. Even the coaches are mostly gay so we have to wear pants and dress like boys even though I see the soccer/volleyball/softball girls looking all girlie at team events.”
I had no idea she felt this way! Is her experimentation with the hookup culture a rationalized way for her to be accepted and to express herself as a woman?
The second area that requires meaningful reflection is how and why we encourage certain educational goals. Daughter #1 graduated high school with a 4.3 GPA and is now studying at a top tier university. But … getting her there took its toll. She was miserable in high school. She didn’t have time to attend many (most) extra curricular events (other than ones that complimented college applications) and developed poor coping techniques, that thankfully I clued into and navigated her through. She’s doing well in her 2nd year of college – she joined a sorority (yeah, girl power) and is excelling academically, but to what end? What is the goal? Is it to compete with men until she is 32-35 and then start looking for a husband? I know my preparation doesn’t have her focused (or even considering) marriage and family as worthwhile goals at this stage of her life.
How many, if any mothers are purposely training their daughters to take womanhood seriously? And if we are not investing time in training them in true womanhood, then why are we so surprised when they so easily reject being a stay at home mom and instead buy into the lie of “we can have it all” only to become disengaged 3-5 years after the wedding ceremony?
So where exactly does our parenting go from here? That is the million dollar question. What happens if we were to have the 14 and 12 year old free up some time by playing sports at a lower level? Or what happens if we don’t place quite as much emphasis on excelling academically? What is the right answer? I guess it will be back to the drawing board and time spent with God, seeking His wisdom.
And on a lighter note … assuming the answers will only come with much time spent in prayer and reflection, then WHERE am I going to get the needed time? #notimetoaskGod#gottagetthingsdone#wronganswer!