Of big dreams and hovercraft parenting
By Susan Frick Carlman firstname.lastname@example.org August 30, 2012 10:28PM
Updated: October 1, 2012 4:23PM
The T-shirts said it all.
“I am a game changer!” they proclaimed proudly across their backs.
Worn by some of the many volunteers who helped out during last weekend’s College Readiness and Scholarship Fair at Neuqua Valley High School, the shirts gave voice to the dreams many brought through the doors with them. The event’s aim: to convince kids, particularly kids of color, that dreams in fact can and do come true.
At a time when no degree comes with a guarantee of paid employment, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the application process, discouraged by the long odds, daunted by the competitiveness of it all — especially in this town, where excellence so often is deemed the norm.
This event, dreamed up by the DuPage County NAACP, frowns on that sense of intimidation.
“We honor kids where they’re at,” said Kathy Schank, an instructor with KidsMatter in Naperville.
Stress is a big culprit in the whole intimidation thing.
For teens here, it’s spawned by overinvolvement and extreme pressure to succeed — and to be as perfect as friends and neighbors think you are, Schank said.
Nobody is immune to that — certainly not adolescents, who already think the whole world is looking at them, all the time.
They need all the help they can get.
So an event like this one goes a long way toward helping them realize they are unique, intriguing, and full of possibility.
Hovering adults are a good part of that. I like to think so anyway, having been a human hovercraft over one or more teens pretty much every waking moment since the mid 1990s. (That includes a whole lot of bonus waking moments that come with the sleepless-nights territory that is being a parent to a teen. These bags under my eyes aren’t just for decoration; they’re hard-earned.)
Of course, as with so many other things, balance matters.
Hovering usually has to be alternated with parental breath-holding, as kids try out their wings and maybe tumble once or twice to the ground. It’s our job to see that it’s a soft landing, if we can. Nobody said this job was going to be easy.
“You wonder if you’re overstepping your bounds,” said Maywood mom Patricia Bassett, who came to the fair with the youngest two of her eight kids.
I confess it was a relief to hear that from somebody who has twice as many children as I.
And certainly the hover habit has had mixed outcomes in our house.
Kids are all different; some will take to loving encouragement more readily than others. That’s OK. I keep reminding myself of that.
“No one can live your life but you,” said Tomi Johnson, who retired last spring from the counseling staff at Naperville North High School and conducted one of the fair’s workshops. “No one can walk your journey but you.”
A long and magnificent journey could lie ahead for Michael Anderson. He and his mom Desiree were gracious enough to let a reporter hover while they went to the first couple of sessions at the Neuqua event.
Michael, a junior at Romeoville High School, has already put a couple of years into his vision of studying film production at the University of Southern California. Dream big.
“He tells me what he’s doing,” Desiree said. “And I make sure he’s on the right track.”
Looks like another game changer to me.