Thoughts on Parenting on The First Day of Second Grade

Daughter started second grade today. A fellow parent standing next to me at the classroom door as our kids filed in under the watchful eye of our cameras muttered to me, “Once more to the breach.” For the second graders, of course. But also for us, their parents.

Never trust anyone who says that a fundamental human activity is harder now than it’s ever been. That’s not true of carpentry or adolescence or marriage, and it’s not true of parenting. As hard as parenting feels in this day and age, I’m not called upon to fend off bears. Parenting will be taxing on the body and spirit everywhere and anywhere. Always has been.

Our difficulty is particular, that’s all–particular to our era and our socio-economic strata. We expect an awful lot of ourselves as parents, and we’re sure we’re failing most of the time. Kid’s grades are below average; kid’s not in enough activities; kid is impolite. All of these indicators condemn us in our own minds (and–let’s be honest–in the minds of some fellow parents).

So we do more. Drive to more activities. Take more pictures. Arrange more tutors. Buy more enrichment materials. This is our particular brand of hard parenting; we are driven to be the best, and our definition of “best” aligns very closely with “more.”

Last night, on the eve of her first day of school, Daughter and I sat in beach chairs in the park listening to a concert and sending a GIF of Toonces The Driving Cat to her mom, who was working late in the urgent care clinic. “Ooh,” Daughter said without prompting, “This is very enjoyable.”

This is enough.