True lessons come after school ends

By Helena Rodriguez: Freedom Newspapers

Know what I hate about back to school? The superficial commercials that try to make school seem so cool and hip by showing kids rapping and dancing in the latest fashions.

You have to have the right shoes, the right look, the right gadget, IPod, IPhone, laptop and designer shirts in order to be ready for school. No mention about brains.

As a child, I hated back-to-school commercials because they were a stark, in-your-face reminder of the inevitable. Now I hate back-to-school commercials because I hate back-to-school commercials.

My daughter Laura will be a high school senior this year so this is probably my last year dealing with public schools. Next, Laura will move on to the realm of higher education and my thoughts and concerns will turn to a higher level of academia. Hopefully, there will not be as much focus on the material world.

The year will fly by and so I intend to make the most of it. As I think back to years past, I have to confess that my back-to-school worries were mostly materialistic. I focused on my budget and how much money I could spend on Laura’s back-to-school clothes and supplies.

As my baby begins her last year of public education though, thoughts of graduation expenses, Maypole, prom, ACT scores, college applications, college tuition, room and board and transportation are all at the back of my mind. I want my daughter to be successful in life.

After all, she’s been told since the day she started preschool that the question was not on whether she was going to go to college, but where she would go to college and what career she would choose to pursue.

But as I’ve watched her mature over the past few years and as I’ve tried to steer her in the right direction, I’ve also come to redefine the definition of success in my own life. So, naturally, my definition of success for Laura has changed, too.

As a baby, my parents and I, like many parents and grandparents, instilled in Laura the idea that she can become anything she wants to become — a doctor, a lawyer, an astronaut, and, yes, even the president of the United States. But the biggest sign of success for me, for any parent, is to raise a loving, giving, responsible young adult with strong moral character.

It’s to step back from the “my child” mentality and take on more of an “our child” mentality because it’s not all about how good our children can make us look to others. It’s about the good our children can and should do for others.

The real test of success will come, not when Laura walks across that stage in May and receives her high school diploma, followed by a college degree in four more years or so. The real test will be what she does with that education.

Will she make the right choices when she goes out on her own for the first time, away from the safe shores of home? Will she keep in mind the advice, values, morals and beliefs I’ve tried to instill in her along the way? The love? The hope? The faith?

It’s not the diplomas but the choices she makes after receiving those diplomas that will be the real indicator of what Laura has learned in life. And so, parents, keep this in mind as you guide your children through school. Make the most of the time you do have left with your children at home.

Helena Rodriguez is columnist for Freedom Newspapers of New Mexico. She can be reached at: