Summer and son

What’s parenting got to do with it?

It’s quite strange when your son reaches an age where he is not only taller than you are – but is also smarter than you are. And probably always will be. Being an average Generation X mother to an exceptionally bright Generation Z is quite the eye opener.

I’ll break it down for you.

I stopped being able to help my 15-year-old son with his maths homework years ago. Embarrassingly, I think he was in about grade seven at the time. I’ll admit I am somewhat mathematically challenged. But in my defence, he was doing an accelerated program. He asked me if I could help him solve one of the problems. Well, sadly, it was numerical gobbledegook to me. So I had to admit I was literally unable to help him with his homework. Oh, the shame.

At 15 I was discovering boys, alcohol and the joys of spending school hours at the beach. I was all about brand names, thinness and doing what everyone else was doing. I was a study in teenage angst and rebellion. Rebellion against my mother, mind you, not society.

At the same age my son gets consistently glowing school reports, excellent grades and knows what career path he wants to pursue. If I had received even one high school report that read like his, my mother would have wept tears of joy.

My son simply likes what he likes, thank you very much. The universe, black holes, physics, time travel and artificial intelligence are subjects that pique his interest. He’s not interested in wearing the right clothes by the right designers. While I battle a chronic Zara addiction, he seems immune to marketing. I don’t know what happened. Sometimes I think they sent me home with the wrong baby. Wasn’t I supposed to end up with a brat?

It’s made me realise that parenting may have little to do with how kids turn out. I’ll confess I’m now inclined to agree with Judith Rich Harris who, in her 1998 book The Nurture Assumption, argues that parents have little or no influence over the long-term development of their children’s personalities. Obviously her book went down with child psychologists about as well as a new mum turning up at playgroup with two litres of Coke for the toddlers to share.

But, honestly, I’ve never been much of role model mum. I was single for 10 years. He’s been through a divorce. We lived in low socio-economic suburbs most of his life. I can’t cook. I’m not much of a homemaker. I get distracted easily. I have a quick temper. I have been a career-focussed, studying, working, busy parent most of his life. And I’ve had my fair share of personal challenges and difficulties along the way.

But my son doesn’t seem to have suffered because of it. In fact, he’s one of the most grounded, lovely and well adjusted people I know. He’s always had a quiet confidence and self assurance. He has a great sense of humour. And I certainly didn’t teach him that. Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been plagued with insecurity, self doubt and seriousness most of my life.

Maybe it’s the difference between girls and boys. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Maybe it’s just that we’re all born with our own nature. Your family may affect the choices and experiences you have – but ultimately you are who you are.

People always congratulate me for raising such a delightful young man. But I’ll happily give my son all the credit for that.

This post was originally published by Mamamia.  Publisher and author @MiaFreedman is the same age as me, but I have always admired her stellar career with star-struck awe. She is one of my idols.  I am a regular @mamamia reader, so I decided to set a goal of having a guest post published on the site.

I wrote Meeting Ita and submitted it to managing editor @lanahirschowitz. I thought it was perfect. But Lana quickly replied saying that, while she loved the post, it wasn’t quite right for Mamamia readers. I was shocked – I thought I knew what her readers liked. So I asked Lana for some honest feedback. She was incredibly kind and helpful, giving me excellent advice and encouraging me to keep submitting. I felt humbled, but more determined than ever.

My second attempt was published on Mamamia on 13 January 2012. This guest post is about parenting – not writing – but I wanted to share it here. Being a writer means having pieces you love rejected but we need to pick up our pens, be true to ourselves, and keep going. Set your goal, work hard, and don’t give up. Here’s the link to the original post on Mamamia: How much say do we have over who we become

3 thoughts on “What’s parenting got to do with it?”

  1. Wow, Summer! I can’t believe you have a 15 year old son. My oldest is 8. She is also good at maths – definitely gets that from her dad. Remember Mr Johnstone giving up on us? I remember the party girl (remember the year 12 ball??), but it seems like you turned out just fine.
    Love ,Joy

  2. Hi Summer, What a great reading. I would have loved my parents to bits if they would have had the opportunity in their days to express their feelings about me in a way that you did about your son. By the way: I had a son-dad relation similar to your daughter-mom relation.

    1. Thanks Volker, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I asked my son to read it before I submitted, just to make sure he was comfortable with the content. He said that it was pretty funny and while he’s not a typical teenager, he felt other parents would be able to relate. Nice critique!

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