Parenting a high schooler 3.0

When I published my first blog post 10 years ago, I didn’t have a high schooler. My kids were ages 11, 8, and 4. Now, at the writing of this first post of the reboot of my blogging enterprise, I’m preparing to send my youngest to high school in just two short months. And we (my husband Mike and I) are learning all over again.

Our oldest set out for a public charter high school, which was new territory for us. But she was (and still is) independent and capable. She was firmly entrenched in theatre and made friends through that easily. She was a determined student and didn’t cause much worry. When it came time for her brother to go to high school, he chose a Catholic high school — definitely more in my wheelhouse. He is an athlete, so his high school years were filled with conditioning and practices and games. He was a reluctant student, which caused us a lot of angst in his freshman year, but when he put his mind to it (and found he couldn’t play if he didn’t make the grades), he did fine.

Now, it’s our “baby’s” turn to go to high school and I think it’s fair to say that we (Robbie and I) are both kind of terrified at the prospect. Of all three of our kids, Robbie works hardest at school. It doesn’t come easily to him and his years of elementary and middle school were filled with plenty of personalized academic support. He wants to do well and where effort figures into the bulk of the grade, he does. But he learns differently. And he thinks differently. And he approaches life differently. And we are learning how to parent him differently.

The first difference we came upon was when Robbie said he didn’t want to play sports in high school. After four years all-in to high school athletic scene, I wondered “how exactly do you parent a kid who doesn’t want to play sports?” He played CYO sports for most of the years he was able and while not a stellar athlete, he is decent. His hard-working nature serves him well on the field and the court.

“How about you choose a team to work out with for the summer,” I suggested. “That way you can meet people and make friends before school starts.”

It wasn’t a bad idea, but I’ll admit that I was also hoping to “trick” him into deciding to play. But here we are, a month into summer soccer training and he is ready to hang up the cleats.

“Well maybe, you want to give tennis a try?”

No.

“Mr. N. thinks you could be pretty good at football.”

No. I just want to concentrate on school.

How can I argue with that? Plus, I know that he would be overwhelmed with the prospect of practicing or competing five to six days a week. My baby is my homebody. But what does high school look like when you don’t have a dedicated sport or interest (as Annie had theatre)? I guess we are about to find out.

If I’m honest with myself, I know this is about fear. My fear that he won’t fit in, that he won’t have friends. I’m also afraid that I am giving up too easily. Kids need us to push them out of their comfort zones, right?

This part of parenting I know well…discovering when to push and when to back off. Allowing our kids to make their own decisions (with some guidance, of course) and being there to support and re-direct them should those decisions come with unexpected or unwanted consequences.

High school 3.0. Ready or not, here we come.