Living through your child has been called a mistake and yesterday, as my friend and I met for a celebratory breakfast to celebrate the return of our children to their educational babysitters (it was the first day of school), we discussed the plans for the school year. We began to talk about the plans we’d had for our children when they were younger and how those plans have had to change as the kids, now between the ages of 13-18, have become people and started to come into their own. They have discovered their likes and dislikes and have no problem voicing those opinions and said opinions don’t always go with the plan we envisioned for them when they were five and six years old.
When my daughter was in the 2nd grade, I found a Performing Arts Middle/High School that I felt would be perfect for the little musician I’d created. She’d been playing the piano for three years by then and knowing how important music had been to me in school (it was the only thing that kept me there) I wanted to make sure that she had every opportunity to not only perfect her skills as a musician, but also have a more positive experience with school than I’d had. We talked about it all the time. I took her on a virtual tour of the campus via their website to generate excitement and she’d even gone to summer camp at the school so by 6th grade, she decided that she would like to go there for high school…I was so happy!
The plan was on track and by the time 7th grade rolled around, we began to look at the admission and audition requirements. She seemed really focused and talked about what she’d like to do when she got there and then something happened…she started to think for herself and her thoughts were no longer in line with the plan I’d (I mean we’d) been working on since she was 8 years old.
Our conversations slowly changed from music to boys and wanting to become a cheerleader and once she got on the kick of wanting to become a cheerleader…it was over. My child is very persistent and once she decides she wants to do something, she stalks you and (insert activity), so all I heard about was cheer, how to get involved and when I balked at the cost, she informed me about the ability to fundraise to bring the final cost down. She was passionate and prepared!
My initial response was “No.” No because cheer isn’t in the plan. No because you need to stay focused on your music and getting in to the performing arts school. Just no! But she wasn’t willing to accept my no and I started to realize that if I didn’t allow her to figure out who she was and wanted to be, I would be guilty of forcing her to live the life I wanted her to live, the life I wished I’d lived and not the life she was living.
Is it wrong that you want to give them the opportunities you wished you’d had? The whole point in parenting is you take the good and the bad from your own experiences so that you can more effectively teach your child but when you don’t allow them to have a say in what they want to do, you are indeed, encroaching on their ability to grow into a well-rounded adult with the ability to make sound decisions.
I gave in and allowed my daughter to cheer for the community youth cheer squad. I’ve begun to reevaluate my approach and I’ve begun to look at other options for high school in case she decides that the performing arts school isn’t the route she wants to take. Allowing her to have input on her life has made her feel more empowered and she is happy which is leading to success in school and in the end, that is all any parent really wants.
Ever since my daughter was born, I have had this fire inside me to make sure that she was involved in an extracurricular activity that she not only loved but could turn into a career later in life. Most people would look at me and say, “That is why you would send her to college.” Well what happens if she decides that she doesn’t want to go to college? When a child decides to buck tradition and deviate from the path you’ve set of getting into a good college and then beginning their career, people are confused and tend to look at them in disbelief. Somehow you and they have failed.
I was that kid. My family did not understand my aversion to college and they weren’t prepared for a child who just wouldn’t follow the plan. Just recently, I made a comment about my daughter getting a job when she is in High School in front of my mother. She looked at me and said, “You didn’t have a job” and I looked at her and said, “Getting a job wasn’t an option for me.” She got a little defensive and I told her, “Nothing against you and how you raised us but you all stressed education at all costs. There wasn’t another option.” I was always told, “School is your job.”
Now let’s get something straight, I am not advocating work over school but I am saying that at some point in a child’s life, a serious assessment should be made. If you can see that a child has no real interest in school, instead of just hoping that a child will turn it around and go to college, begin to look at how they can utilize their talents. Begin the dialogue about how they can make a living with their specific skill set and do some research on areas where they can begin to focus and of course, make the most money.
For my daughter, the conversation began at a young age because I knew that if my gene pool kicked in, there would be a possibility that she may decide she wasn’t interested in pursuing a college career and I didn’t want her to have to settle for or luck up on a good job like I did. Although I managed to find a field that paid well and didn’t mind that I didn’t have a college degree, once they let me go, I was right back to square one and just beginning to work on my “back-up plan.” She is being taught to work on hers now.
Because we began talking about options for my daughter at a young age, she has begun to talk about where she sees herself and she has decided that college is in her future. She is researching different schools and we’ve taken her to the Black College Expo to get her familiar with and begin talking to schools about what to expect and what will be expected of her. She is also fully aware that there are two roads that she can take and I’ve been very open about the road that I chose.
I’ve made sure she understands how my choices have directly effected our finances and how I have struggled to find and implement my own back-up plan. Because of this very open dialogue, she is fully aware that should she make the decision to bypass college, there will be obstacles she will be up against but either way, she knows what she will have to do to find success and I can rest in knowing she has been given the tools and the know how to implement her back-up plan.