Bittersweet School Year and Finding a Way to Dream Again

My eldest graduated high school in May. It was a touch bittersweet — the first time we had been back to campus in over a year except for two curbside pick-ups of textbooks. The year began frantically with virtual college tours, SAT preparation, and the crafting of essays for university applications.

At the same time, she floundered in online education. She has an inattention disorder that challenges her to focus. Watching lectures over Zoom or as a pre-recorded video where she followed along with a worksheet was that much harder. Her grades suffered. She began to feel overwhelmed and anxious.

She gradually drifted from feeling connected to the community of her charter school located in another city. Her closest friends were still those from childhood in our hometown and her online art community. Online school felt isolating.

At last one day, in a fit of tearful introspection, she asked, “Mommy, is it OK if I go to community college next year? I don’t feel ready to leave home, and I don’t know what I want to major in, and I want some time to figure out what I want to do with my life. Maybe it’ll save money if I can start university as a sophomore?” Suddenly, we could both see clearly. Without hesitation, I said, “Yes.”

What a relief. No more stressing about the SAT and no more endless college research, applications, and essays. Now we could focus on actual learning and rebuilding her confidence.

I hired an academic coach who didn’t teach specific subjects but instead focused on approaching work, breaking it into manageable pieces, keeping track of deadlines, and staying organized. These are keys to the kingdom of succeeding in any area of life, aren’t they? My daughter’s grades improved.

Also, she began to dream again.  She talked of being entrepreneurial or finding a job, taking a light load of general education, and exploring niche interests ranging from webcomics to doll design. She graduated with 19 units of community college credit. Even with a light load, she can stay on track as a freshman.

I abashedly concede that there’s always that Tiger Mom part of me that wants to push her a little more. When your friends tell you that their children are off to Stanford or Berkeley or to design school in New York, it’s hard not to be a little wistful.

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But my daughter has always been an inward, dreamy child and can’t be rushed. I’ve learned that pushing her too hard hurts her. A friend advised me to proceed at the pace of love. That’s good advice.

So it was a challenging school year, but there were highlights. She did well in creative writing. When I read her final story, I cried. It was beautiful. It was one of those proud moments when you realize your offspring can exceed anything you will ever achieve. May the road rise up to meet you, Sweetheart.

2 thoughts on “Bittersweet School Year and Finding a Way to Dream Again

  1. What a lovely post! Congratulations to Avril on her graduation and knowing what she doesn’t want! She has such a bright future especially with your support! Best wishes to Avril! Looking forward to hearing about/following her journey!

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