2008-11-21

Expectations

Growing up as a black girl in suburbia, I was well aware that my parents worked very hard to get to where they were, and that they set high expectations for me to maintain or exceed the lifestyle the provided me.

Even though my parents and I get along great now, my parents although I love them were tough as hell on me growing up. My father in particular was really kind of tough. He kind of expected me to be a little adult. My mother although more lax, wasn't what I would call lax. My parents were hard core parents. I still tremble in fear of the both of them. If I had told my parents I wanted to be a nurse, they would tell me to be a doctor. If I told them I wanted to graduate from college, they told me to get a PhD. My mother is still hoping I get the first PhD in the family, as my mom and dad "only" have their Masters. My parents were the type of parents who told me straight up because I was a black woman, I would have to be better and work harder at anything and everything I do. A "B" was never good enough, an "A" was the only acceptable grade in my house, and in the summer's there was nothing wrong with doing mommy assigned homework for a couple of hours a day. My father thought I should be reading more meaningful books than some old funky fiction from Jack Kerouac or Kurt Vonnegut.

I just now told my mother of my plans to become a teacher. She is happy, or I should say OK with it, but my father not so much. He told me I was "too good" to teach. It kind of stung, but I know my father. I should note my mother is a teacher, and my father used to be a teacher. He keeps telling me I need a job that will pay me and provide a good lifestyle. He never wants me to feel poverty like he experienced growing up, and I understand that, but I can think of worse things to be than a school teacher.

In high school, I told my parents I wanted to major in English in college, get my PhD, and become a writer, and my parents yelled at me and informed me their money would only go to worthwhile majors like business, engineering, or the like. My parents tried to turn me on to accounting, but I just couldn't do it, but business I could do. I think this is part of the reason I rebelled in college. Going from an extremely structured environment to one not structured at all was too much. I went crazy. I was at night clubs every night, and skipping the 9:00 am classes in lieu of sleeping in or watching "Little House On The Prairie" was too much. Needless to say, me and Sallie Mae now are BFFs.

I say all of this because I wonder will I do the same to my future hypothetical kids. I am sure I will give them you got to work harder and better speech, but will race or gender be a factor in that speech? I don't know. My husband thinks it is cruel to give a kid homework in the summer. I do know I would hope that I wouldn't measure my kids success by the amount of money they make. I realize that money makes things easier, I would want them to have a comfortable life, but I would want them to be happy I hope, even if lawyer or doctor wasn't on the top of their list for income. I would want them to be educated, but I hope if they came to me and said they wanted to be an artist, I wouldn't push them into getting a chemistry degree. That I wouldn't feel they needed a PhD, and finally that as long as they were employed, able to take care of themselves, and happy, I would be happy for them. I don't want my kids to rebel like I did, but I don't want to be their best friend either. I don't want to be the cool mom who listens to cool music, and lets their kids do cool things. I just don't want them to feel obligated to me like I feel obligated to my parents to adhere to certain expectations, and not feel horribly for not following those ideal expectations to the "T".