Rugrat Resume Rhetoric

Posted on March 6, 2012. Filed under: Family, Parenting | Tags: , , , , , |

Dear Lora,

I can hardly believe that I’m being counseled to create a resume for my kids while they’re still in elementary and middle school!  I think I wrote my first resume my senior year in college.  Those who’ve walked in my shoes tell me that kids need to be competitive from a very early age if they’re going to get into a good high school.  My question is, what extra-curricular activities can young kids do to fill a resume?  Should I be worried my kids aren’t standout stars at school?

Ignorance was bliss

Dear Bliss-less,

Way back in the colonial period when I went to high school, all you had to do was show up.  We only had one option in my small town, so there wasn’t any discussion and certainly no resumes!  Thank the Lord, as I’m not sure what school I would have landed given my only two skills: fire baton twirling and clogging.  Can you imagine the medical releases my mom, Norma Jean, would have had to sign off on those?

So I was as surprised as you are sister when our oldest, Betsy, hit middle school and folks started talking about “resume building”!  What resume?  What building?  At that point she couldn’t even load the dishwasher without guidance, what in the world could she possibly put on a piece of paper that would make her stand out at age 11?   I quickly realized I’d have to harken back to my creative writing class days to turn her limited abilities into talents.

Betsy’s hair styling became: “has an eye for details and exhibits extreme patience on long format projects”.  At the time she had a MySpace account, which was quickly turned into: “creative director of child friendly web page”.  And my personal best — begging for the latest pair of designer jeans translated to: “has strong negotiating skills and shows promise as a litigator”.

During this ridiculous exercise, I started wondering…how many other parents are feeling the way I feel?  Is it possible I have the only child who hasn’t saved all of her allowance in order to buy pet food for the local animal shelter?  Had I missed my mark as a mother by letting my daughter blow her hard-earned cash on candy and music CD’s?

Putting my years of watching Magnum PI  to work, I started sniffing around other parents to see what “talents” they were listing for their children.  Cocktail parties offered the best bragging opportunity, where it was common to hear the following:  “my child is a concert pianist”, “my kid speaks 3 languages”, “my daughter started her own clothing line and is donating all the funds to the children of Africa”.

I think my favorite was the parent who was hanging their hat on their son’s bagpipe playing proficiency!  Talk about hot air!  Really?  You’ve been making your child play the bagpipes???  A skill that’s only utilized in our society for funerals and Scottish weddings?  Good gravy!

Had I really been that remise as a parent?  Not focusing every waking moment on some random craft that would somehow, someday get Betsy into a high school somewhere that would lead her to an ivy league college?  That’s when I decided to just be blatantly honest with the other parents about who my child was.  A novel concept these days, I know!

I remember the first time I told someone if NASA was recruiting based on MySpace pages alone, Bets would be their first call. Although I had braced for a backlash, the other parent laughed out loud and admitted they were in the same boat!  A boat that was apparently on a course to nowhere – with no life vests, just a dingy for a mom.  After all, that was what other mothers and fathers had led us to believe.

Despite their best efforts to look like their child was on course and they were at the helm of their kids ship, I quickly started learning that most parents were lying about their child’s actual GPS location.

Here’s the reality, the majority of moms and dads in this country are just like you and me.  Instead of a ship, we’re in rowboats.  Nonetheless, we are doing the best we can sailing those small vessels trying to keep our sons/daughters on track.  Why isn’t that enough?  Why is there this ridiculous pressure to make our kids row harder and grow up faster?

Once I was honest about where Betsy really was in life —  a normal  tweener, others started being candid back.  That’s when I learned, there were more parents like me than the piano playing, bagpipe blowhards that had been commanding all the attention at these get-togethers.

With that said, unfortunately, in this day and age, your child does need some type of resume, but it’s not the kind you and I have to submit for a job.  Think of it as tool, versus an actual resume on linen paper.

Here’s why: most of these high schools will ask for recommendation letters – when you ask your friends or one of your childs teachers to write one, 9 times out of 10 they will ask for a bio on your child.  This is to help them draft an informative letter, basically, the more they know about your kid, the better the letter will be.

The goal is to make your child look like they care and are an active participant at his or her school, not valedictorian…we all know, there can only be 1 of those, so don’t worry.

Schedule a meeting with either the principal or school counselor and ask them what the different schools are looking for, it’s their job to know.  Get their advice on what schools they think your child would do well at.  They can also give you some great tips on how their resume should be crafted.

Anyone who tells you your child must be a rock star or bagpiper, as the case may be, to get into high school is uninformed and unrealistic.  Keep in mind, these private high schools are a business at the end of the day and need you as much as you need them.  They need your money to keep the doors open and to keep donations from alumni coming in.  I truly believe schools are always looking for good kids, not perfect kids.

Take a deep breath, you’re child is going to be fine.  You are a parent who cares, which is truly half the battle.

Ps.  If you need financial aid, they can help you with that information as well.  Most all private schools offer some sort of scholarship to students who can’t afford tuition, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask.

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