Monday, May 7, 2007

Gracy Pants

It's that wonderful time of year again, when I need to determine the fate of my daughter for another school term.
Each and every year, I have to decide if she's deserving of the $8000 or so dollars it costs to send her to the private high school she loves, but gets almost nothing academic from, except for teachers who are more patient with her lack of interest in learning, and maybe a safer, calmer environment in which to ponder who she's becoming.
I struggle with this decision, because even tho I am grateful for the peace this school has given my daughter, I have a nagging feeling sometimes that Grace needs to be ushered into the "real world", which isn't so pleasant or safe, and while not an everyday part of our lives, needs to be reconed with on some level.
I struggle because I vacillate daily between knowing that you CAN structure your life to avoid some facets of our world that are toxic and unpleasant in a friendly, Kater Murr type fashion, as we have done-- and then wondering what it costs to be so protected.
What is "real life", anyway?
For us, it's a lovely life in the country-- quiet, pleasant, simple, reflective. For others, I'm sure it's quite the opposite. But what makes their lives any more "real" than the peace we've worked so hard to create for ourselves?
We're fully aware of what the world can be like; we've lived in it, participated in it, and ultimately structured our lives to be the calm in the storm. How is that any less real that the chaos people create for themselves, perhaps because they like it, perhaps because it's all they've ever known? We take our kids on trips all over: small towns, big cities--everywhere--so they can see the world around them and begin to "know" it as best they can. We are who we are, and isn't who we are as significant and honest to translate to our children than who everyone else is (and shouldn't it take precendence)?

Parts of me thinks it may be worth it, since even the most exceptional women in the world often grow up to be "mommies" and wives, despite their expensive, advanced educations. Even me, for all my intellect and drive and man-hating feminism, still chose the mommy route over being a kick-ass professional. And if Grace, in the grand scheme of things, can discover who she is and meet a nice, prospective husband in her little prep school or simply learn what prospective husband material looks like, then it's money well spent, don'tcha think? (Divorcing a meatball is expensive!) She's more likely to develop a healthier image of a marriage partner if she's surrounded by the sons of married, professional people, who are at least taught manners and the importance of earning a respectable living...'cause I've seen what they've got going on at the local public schools, and if she brought home one of those Marilyn Mansion looking boys, I'd have to up my medication and learn how to use that shotgun I've got hiding under the bed (or at least how to point it with conviction). I have a strict "no meatball" policy I'd like to impart firmly to my daughter before she's off on her own and shopping for a mate.

I feel in my bones that everything I'm doing now at this stage of her life is to prepare her to be a good wife and mother; in my limited understanding of who Grace is right now, I believe this is what she is going to do best.
And thanks to the excellent feminist training I was immersed in since my birth in the 70's, I have a smidgen of guilt about nudging my daughter in this direction; but if most moms think their girls are all going to grow up to be professionals after their 4 year stint in college, and then live happily ever after, I think they're in for a surprise:

Some girls just aren't into academics or are career minded, and really, what's the harm of following the "mommy track"? Women, in spite of their "liberation" of late, are still biological creatures who are hormonally programmed with a deeply (veryvery deeply) ingrained desire to have a family, to be loved and to nurture children. Even with all the hoop-de-do about "choices" and "progress" for women, this is still a beautiful and profound way for a woman to make her mark on the world, and sometimes the most direct.

And realistically, if a woman is driven to define herself through her work, which can also be very rewarding, she should understand that some day she may be faced with a litany of agonizing choices, none of which may be wholly satisfactory given the path she's pursued;

To bear and raise her children, forgoing or temporarily putting her career on hold;
To bear and allow someone else to raise her children, always knowing that her contribution to their lives is minimal at best;
Or move beyond the call to parent, and deal with whatever emotional consequences that may bring (I had an elderly patient last week who lamented repeatedly that her greatest regret was that she was an "old maid", with no children to care for her). Case in point, an interesting segueway:
Of course, I had another conversation today with a woman, much like myself, who is torn between meeting her husband's expectation for her to work and the unhappiness she feels at having to drop her babies off at daycare, and the bitterness of receiving no help with running the household. I myself write this after another 8 hour day at work, after preparing dinner, cleaning it up, washing and folding clothes, and getting the kids ready for another day while my own spouse is relaxing on the couch...
Why would I want to prepare my daughter to have a full-fledged career when she is likely to be dumped on in this fashion? Will the world change enough in my lifetime to the point where women aren't expected to "do it all"? Because I think it's crap. That is definitely ONE family tradition I have no intention of passing on.
As usual, I don't know which diretion to take.... all I DO know, is that until this issue is settled, I'm going to be miserable for the 4 whole months until school starts back up in the fall (we had everything decided last fall until the DAY BEFORE school started, when I was forced to make the snap decision to send Grace to CCHS because it turned out Grace couldn't go to BHS thru open enrollment, as we thought she could. I am not a fan of WHS for her; it's just too small, with all the implications of such).

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