Wednesday September 7, 2022
‘I just want him to have options.’
How many parents have I heard utter these words? In 24 years of being a test prep coach, you can guarantee I’ve heard them a lot. A. LOT.
And it’s usually a statement used to back up their fervor of encouraging (nagging/hassling/cajoling/whatever-ing) their high school kids (more often than not, their boys who seemingly couldn’t give a care about their future) into earning good grades and trying harder on their SATs, ACTs, and the lot.
And you know what? Those parents aren’t wrong. Yes, good grades, a thousand AP classes, competitive SAT or ACT scores, whatever…yes, those can open up doors. Getting into an honors program at XYZ University will definitely offer some unique opportunities. Getting into a ‘good’ school has its value.
AND…I think many of us who say this are operating under a false assumption, namely that this is the ONLY time in life they’re going to have options.
Newsflash, friends – every one of us has options. Today. Tomorrow. The next day. Every single one of us has agency in our own life (unless you are in a situation in which that has been taken from you, i.e. abusive relationship, etc. I know those situations exist. I know they are more common than we’d like to acknowledge. And those are outside of the scope of what I mean to address here.)
Every day that we wake up, we have choices: do we go back to that job? Do we start a side-hustle? Do we take a class at the community college or online? Do we give that guy or gal a second chance? Do we reach out to the friend who’s gone MIA?
And the same is true for the next generation. Yes, college is a logical next step for many kids. But it’s not the ONLY – or even the BEST – next step for them. A year working at a ‘menial’ job might just give them the kick in the pants to go back to school. A year working at that same job might just give them the insight about how to make that workplace better for folks for whom college seeimngly isn’t even an option. Maybe they find the love of their life while working said job, and THAT is what drives them to want to pursue education/higher pay/more benefits/whatever.
But what if they DON’T? This is where we need to check our version of what we ‘expect’ for them. We need to check our version of what we ‘believe’ will make them happy. Do we really truly believe that college is right FOR THEM? Do we believe that an honors program is right FOR THEM? Do we really think they’ll never pursue higher education if they don’t go straight out of high school?
Or is that our own fears of them not becoming what we expect them to become talking?
And hey, maybe it really, truly is what we believe is best for them. And we believe that encouraging/cajoling/whatever-ing will produce different results. (Well, let’s consider the oldest definition of insanity: continuing to do the same thing you’ve always done and expecting different results.)
And yes, the good grades and whatnot do help open doors to some options. But…do they open the doors to MORE options?
And if so, at what expense?
Kids, at their core, are terrified of disappointing their parents. I know, that may be hard to believe. But they are.
And I believe parents really, truly want what’s ‘best’ for their kids. They see potential in their kids that the kids themselves don’t see.
And we, the adults, get sucked into forgetting that this isn’t the only time they’re going to have options. They will have options every day for the rest of their lives. They can choose. Sometimes they’ll make choices we disagree with – I know I did, and you probably did, too. And I’ll stand by the ones that I KNEW were right. And every day, I wake up knowing I have choices in the direction my life goes – and your kids will, too.
Let them make decisions that aren’t the ones you’d make. Don’t stress about how many options they do (or don’t) seemingly have.
Options abound. Always have. Always will.
No matter what the grades are. ;)