Cheating Our Children

At my age I considered myself almost “unsuprisable.” It takes a lot for me to be shocked most especially in the category of asinine human behavior but the recent college admission cheating scandal had me doing a deep WTH?

This story of parents paying a company upwards of a half million dollars to help their kids cheat on college entrance exams and/or bribing college coaches to secure their child a coveted spot on a collegiate athletic team (in all of these cases the child either had never played the sport or didn’t play the sport at a competitive level) solely for the purpose of getting admission to an elite university is so 21st century parenting that I really don’t know why I’m surprised.

In fact, I’m almost embarrassed that I’m surprised. All you have to do is endure any school drop off and pick up line and know that it’s full of parents who firmly believe the rules don’t apply to them or their children. Also, as a parent who has recently gone through the college admission process (including USC which is one the schools that had coaches taking bribes) I should be copping a “tell me something I don’t know” attitude.

Getting into college today has birthed an entire industry from college test prep centers to “collegiate coaches” who do everything from fill out your child’s common app to writing the essays and securing letters of recommendation. When your kid is applying to college you hear a lot of stuff thorough the parent grapevine like stories about a former teacher who now “makes a good living” writing “amazing” recommendation letters for kids she doesn’t even know.

It’s almost like you’re a huge loser if, as a parent, you’re not just involved in your kid’s college application process but you’ve taken it over. If you want to suck the air out of room just tell a group of moms that the only thing you’ve done to help your child apply to college is to give her or him a credit card for the application fee.

My husband and I through ignorance or through having very stubborn children had zero to do with their college application process. We never even read or proofed any of their essays. Last year, after I was mom shamed for not even knowing what my kid was writing about I did ask my daughter if she wanted me to take a look at some of her college essays. She did an eye roll and shared that “she had it under control” and then had to add, “Mom, you do realize that I find grammatical errors in almost everything you write so I think I’m good on my own.” Ouch, but also kind of true.

Parents meddling/micromanaging, and ultimately cheating for their children in the college application process is just another symptom of competitive parenting that begins immediately post womb. I remember being sleep deprived and flabbergasted by mothers whose infants were doing “baby sign language” while my four-month old was trying to eat his toes. Then there’s toddlers reading chapter books by age three, doing algebraic math equations by four and my personal favorite parents doing everything including threats of lawsuits to get their child a “gifted and talented” designation. And I’m not even going to touch upon all the crazy sports parents. We’ve taken our kids childhood and turned it into 18 years of plotting how to get our progeny ahead.

What a tragic waste of a childhood and what a waste of what might have been. Our kids shouldn’t be reduced to be our mini-mes nor should they be groomed to be reflections of our perceived awesomeness. We should practice basic human decency and allow our children to be their own person, to achieve something on their own without a parent scheming in the background, and to learn that failure is an opportunity for growth not something that might make us, the parent, look bad. When did parenting become more about us and less about what is good for our children?