I picked you up from school an hour later so you could stay to make up a test. As soon as I saw you, I knew. You looked utterly defeated as you walked toward the car with sunken shoulders and your head hanging down.
It seemed as if the weight of the world had collapsed right on top of you.
An out-of-town competitive swim meet meant missing school and having three tests to make up upon your return. You worked so hard catching back up and preparing for these make-up exams. Especially in one class- a college credit course with concepts that are exceptionally difficult for a 15-year-old to master.
When you got into the car you told me you didn’t do well on the test. You had studied for hours, and you felt prepared. But the test was just too hard.
You are in all honors classes and it feels like a mountain summit you can never reach.
The layout of this academic climb demands so much of you. So much that I worry you are wearing yourself down with all the overwhelming expectations of today’s academic culture.
It’s simply too much.
And my heart breaks into tiny pieces as I watch you try so hard to reach the top, only to tumble down and fall- buried in a heap of failure.
When I was your age, it was all so much simpler.
I don’t think I would survive under the pressures you are facing. I am amazed by your determination and perseverence while simultaneously appalled by the standards set for our students these days.
I want to make things easier for you, more realistic and attainable for your young age- but I can’t. This is the reality of our modern high school landscape, full of mountains where the grueling trek uphill for our kids never ends.
I watch in awe as you traverse through this treacherous terrain with grit and strength and stamina. But I know it’s wearing you down. I worry all this stress is the new normal for kids your age and that’s simply not right. You are a fifteen-year-old living a life that would be too much for most adults, despite still being a child.
The competition for college admissions is fierce. You have to fight your way in through those doors with the highest GPA and several college courses already under your belt along with a remarkable SAT/ACT test score. The pressure is palpable and there’s no way around it. But you accept this all without complaint, because you have BIG dreams and this is just what needs to be done to achieve them.
You amaze me with such steadfast focus and extraordinary plans.
When I was 15, I had no idea what I wanted to do. I rarely invested my efforts in anything but picking out my outfits for the day, scrounging for change to buy a diet coke, and making weekend plans with my friends.
Oh, how things have changed.
I want to gather you into my arms and tell you that some of these mountains are just too big for your age. But this is your reality.
So, I’ll do what I can to help you get through these hard years. I’ll help you pace your steps and plan your course. I’ll be your encourager and a soft place to fall when the weight of the world pushes you down.
And I will remind you my beautiful girl, don’t let life wear you down. Over and over again, I will repeat that same sentence to you.
Because don’t we all let life wear us down?
Don’t we all struggle with investing too much into too many areas of our lives? Now you are facing these tough choices and cruel lessons at too young an age. Which is why I must teach you about the delicate balance between stress and self-care, pressure and perspective, work and rest.
How else will you learn?
As carefully as you plan and prepare for your future, as hard as you work to fulfill your dreams, if you bury yourself in the depths of every detail and lose yourself in the demands of each day- you will burn out before you ever get where you’re so set on going.
So, dear daughter, keep trying, keep forging ahead with that grit and grind.
But just remember, you have many more mountains to climb long after you finish high school and get into college.
If you want to reach not only today’s dreams, but also the ones you haven’t even begun to dream yet, you’re going to have to figure out how to manage it all.
I’ll help you do that, okay?
Because my dear teen daughter, there’s too much life ahead of you to let it wear you down this soon.
This post was contributed by Christine Carter who writes at TheMomCafe.com, where she hopes to encourage mothers everywhere through her humor, inspiration, and faith. Her work is published on several various online publications as well. She is the author of “Help and Hope While You’re Healing: A woman’s guide toward wellness while recovering from injury, surgery, or illness.”