Friday, March 31, 2017

What we did right with each of our kids - Part I - Elissa

(NOTE: Parents are forever lamenting the things they wish they had done differently with their children. "I should have been more strict about this" or "I wish I had let her participate in that." That type of stuff. I see nothing productive there, so instead I choose to celebrate the things that Terry and I appear to have done well with our children. Plus, it's a good way to fill five days of blog posts. So there's that.)

Elissa is my newly minted 23-year-old daughter. I don't mean "newly minted" in the sense of "we just got her." I mean she just turned 23 recently.

Also, you will note that I did not hyphenate "newly minted" in that first sentence. Long ago when I first started at The News-Herald, Robin Palmer taught me not to hyphenate "ly" words. I don't know if that was an AP Style thing, a News-Herald thing, or just a Robin thing. But to this day when I'm editing copy, I will remove the hyphen after a "ly" word.

Anyway, Elissa. When she was little, she was shy. A borderline genius, mind you, but shy and introverted. As she grew, she became a little more extroverted with each passing year. Now, the thing comedian John Mulaney says about Jewish women also applies to Elissa: You do not need to ask how she's feeling. She will tell you.

And this is an exceedingly good thing. Women are often conditioned in this society to believe that "shy and quiet" is more attractive than "opinionated and vocal." I will take the latter any day of the week, and I like to think we encouraged her to be that way.

Here are five other things we did right with Elissa:

(1) We made her play her oboe until she graduated from high school. She was ready to be done with the instrument by her junior year (maybe sooner), but we prodded her to stick it out. I believe studying and performing music is an inherently beneficial thing. As is seeing through something you started. Elissa would disagree with me, but I think we did right by her in this decision.

(2) We let her make her own decision about college when it came to living on campus. She could have saved a ton of money living at home while she attended Cleveland State University, but she wanted the on-campus experience, and it's clear how much less she would have grown over those four years had we made her live at home.

(3) I played Barbies with her when she was little. Whatever you think of Barbie and whether she actually imposes unrealistic standards of beauty on little girls (I happen to think most little girls are smarter than that), we had some of our most fun times together playing with the gigantic stock of Barbie merchandise stored under Elissa's bed. Of course, once I got sick of playing, I would concoct some sort of fiery death for Barbie, Ken, and whomever else joined us in our adventures. But PRE-DEATH, Barbie sessions were fun.

(4) We let her make mistakes. This one is going to come up a few times in these posts about my kids, because I see great value in being allowed to screw up in your life. Protecting your children from every stumble and fall is unrealistic and ultimately counterproductive. To Elissa's credit, she has made relatively few mistakes to this point, but she has learned from the ones she has made. I'm pretty sure, anyway...

(5) We helped develop within her a healthy appreciation of 80s music. Elissa listens to a lot of stuff I like and a lot of stuff I probably don't understand. But in the end, we can always find common ground in "Come On, Eileen."

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