Stefania Pomponi is Clever Girls Collective’s Co-Founder, President and Chief Evangelist. A respected social media thought leader and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, she leads Clever Girls Collective’s corporate communications and PR efforts and has been instrumental in inking several key deals. Clever Girls was recently named 21st of the Top 50 Fastest Growing Companies by the Silicon Valley Business Journal and is currently one of the most influential social media agencies offering content marketing and native advertising at scale. She lives and works in Palo Alto, CA.
Sounds odd to say that I am happily sharing this in light of the fact that a child in our community took his own life yesterday and there have been 7 teen suicides in our community in the last 5 years, but I am happy to share this. I’ve been a teacher. I am a parent. But before that, you know what I was? I was a “pretty good student.” Not a stellar student. Not a 4.0+ student. Not an Ivy League-wannabe-student. I was a FINE student. I went through the AS/AP program at my high school. I went to college. My mom had expectations for me and my 3 siblings that we’d go to college. And all of us did. Maybe it was because she a single mom. Maybe it was because she had 4 kids. Whatever the reason, we all in our own way, did our thing and graduated from college without feeling undue pressure, stress, or that we failed if we didn’t get straight As. I was a B student. A fine student. I am a product of a parent who “calmed down.” And look at me today.
Could I have achieved more? Sure. But — I DIDN’T WANT TO. I wanted to take dance classes, perform in school plays, and have a social life–not kill myself with academics, club sports, or a skrillion extra-curricular activities. I was a pretty shy kid (except for when I was performing) and the thought of running for student council or joining a debate team was terrifying for me. Did I ever for a minute think my life would be over if I didn’t get into Stanford? No, I did not. Because my mom assured me it would not. And look at me today.
I live in a community where some parents put a lot of undue pressure on kids. I know parents whose kids struggle with math who have pushed their kids to be in higher math classes for fear of being “tracked.” Kids who need extra support and tutoring but HEY, as long as they have a shot at Harvard, right? I know parents who push their kids into charitable projects their kids don’t understand. Or club sports that kill their home life. But HEY, scholarships, right? I sucked at math. I never made it beyond Algebra II. I never played a high school sport. Did no charitable projects and joined no community clubs in high school. And look at me today.
All I want for my kids is to be good people and to know happiness. I follow their lead when they tell me (or show me) what their interests are. It’s not that I don’t have expectations and standards–I absolutely do. They are high but not unattainable and I know that the standards that apply to one child may not apply to the others. I am mindful every day to avoid comparing them to each other or to others in our community. They are special and unique individuals who have a lot to offer the world. I want them to know that they can make it through high school and on to college (if that’s what they choose) and I won’t think they are failure if they didn’t work in soup kitchen every weekend throughout high school or take 7 AP classes in one year.
(Please universe) I want to them to remain alive long enough to know they can get through hard times (because life is hard sometimes), because they are resilient and have the support of their parents and community around them. I want them to know they can learn at their own pace, pursue their own interests, and live the life that was meant for them because that is what their mother did. And look at me today.
Parents, please take to heart what this child and community member has to say. I know I am.
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