My sister-in-law, mother of four now in careers or college, said this a few years ago, and I’ve been thinking of it lately as my oldest child starts figuring out study and career choices. Although I’m excited for him and his big launch, I wish he could stick around here, because we’re becoming friends. I am proud of him (most of the time), enjoy talking with him about serious and intellectual topics, about the ways of humans, and trying to make him laugh. I love witnessing the special moments he shares with siblings: listening to his little brother, seven years his junior, talk excitedly about science fiction worlds they know together, playing Legos with him when the homework and athletics load is light enough; encouraging or instructing his sister on swimming or discussing relationship and school experiences; thanking his younger sister for a treat she has made for him.
Shepherding him through this process involves a lot of self-restraint. If he can’t listen to his heart and make some good choices by now, I guess I missed my chance or have no wisdom to impart anyway. All I want is to make sure he listens and learns all he can, makes well thought-out decisions, and remembers to ask God for wisdom. Meanwhile I’m strewing information about that I pick up from books and other means–the benefits of a start at community college, the importance of a grounding in liberal arts, the great things to be gained by studying languages and cultures abroad, the options of job shadowing and internships, ways to get an education without paying much or any tuition. In years past we have discussed the importance of training for work that will use his gifts, support a family, and benefit the world in some way, of maintaining integrity and being a blessing rather than part of anything useless or worse. Our several years on government assistance while work was scarce and we were broke from our sabbatical years overseas gave him an appreciation for the usefulness of money, so I’m sure he will be practical enough on that score.
There were times when I stressed about his and my other kids’ future. Did they lose something important by our decision to live overseas for several years without any formal schooling in English and a distracted homeschool mom? So-and-so already has her kid the same age part way through community college and the PSAT! Will they be able to get scholarships?Oh-oh, no Washington state history in 7th grade–have to have that to graduate high school!
I’m much more chill now, and really, chill is more my nature. I lost touch with that driving, overachieving parent and listen more to my neighbor, none of whose post-high school children have officially “graduated” and for whom that never posed a problem in higher education and career. I’m letting go, watching my kids ask good questions, think intelligently about their futures. My ego must stay out of it. The book The New Global Student by Maya Frost reinforced that well for me this week. She talks about parental fego, which equals fear + ego, leading us to pressure our kids to go the same route as everyone else, keep up the scores, grades, athletics and so on, causing us to fear the idea of time away from academics on some other path, an unconventional approach, non-accredited, independent paths of learning. Already my son is interested in living somewhere in the Middle East so he can learn Arabic (he learned Hebrew when we lived in Israel for several years, and they are not very different) and studying programming and other cyber-technology. I hope he’ll continue some of the things he used to enjoy–making stuff, drawing, music, memorizing poetry. Currently I have up on the wall near the fireplace Tolkien’s “I sit beside the fire and think,” and I think he’s allowing it to sink in.