Parenting – Let’s Stress Out Our Kid!

Our son is an only child. Sorry, son. That’s just the way it worked out.

A challenge with being an only child is that the viewfinder is always focused on you for good or bad reasons. No breaks. Ever. The child may think they are getting a break when what is happening are the parents are resting up for another session of coaching and accountability. Sounds fun, right?

Wish for a Sibling

As a good friend pointed out, our son wishes he had a brother who didn’t do as well as he does. That would at least take some heat off him from time to time. A sibling might give him a break. Because, as much as I hate to admit it, we’re always turning up the heat on this kid. Grades, homework, and whatever else we think is important on a given day.

And this year, his junior year, the temperature is rising to 451 degrees, and it is getting freaking ridiculous and challenging science and math AP classes, ACTs, crew five days a week, driving, and all the talk and decision-making involved with his college decisions. A ton of pressure every day, not including our enlightened and manipulative questioning.

College Planning Racket

Like lemmings, we hired a “college planning” service without much forethought. Heck, “everyone else” does it around here, so why not us? Smart, right?

And, so now, here we are. For those who don’t know, the college planning center promises to help the kid “find the right college and develop a plan for getting accepted into it.” Sounds great, right? They don’t tell you that they are also creating a ton of extra work for your child. Pick a major, pick a job, pick a school, and make your school selections. And can you do that right now, Mr. Sixteen years old? And, while you’re at it, why not take more tests to understand your skills and interests better?

My favorite conversation thus far came we visited the center during our son’s first semester finals. The counselor said, “Let’s look ahead to your senior schedule. Now is not the time to take your foot off the gas! Maybe time for some junior college courses in addition to high school! And what do you plan to do for an internship this summer?” I could see my son’s head was about to explode.

Pause and ask, “What are we doing?”

At this point, I had to pause and ask myself, “what are we doing here?” After all, when I was 16, I did nothing of the sort. I was busy developing into what they called “strong junior college material!”  Deciding if I wanted to become an electrical engineer or computer scientist (the choices given to our son) was out of the question for me. And, stepping back, what 16-year-old is ready to make that critical decision? Yet, despite that, we are asking him to make those decisions here.

So, if I step back and ask myself, what is at play here? Why are we doing this? I’m not sure I’m going to like the answer. The answer is that we’re doing this more for us than for him. If he gets into a great college, it most certainly follows that we’re amazing parents.


But, when I think about college and our son’s future working life when held against the backdrop of my wife and my experience, I see that a bit of serendipity trumps planning. Serendipity is hard to prepare for, by definition. Let me illustrate what I am talking about with two genuine examples.

My wife went away as a declared dance major to Cal Poly. Her dream was to be a ballerina. After a semester, however,  she realized that was a big whoops. Not practical. No money there in ballet. So, she quickly changed her major to accounting. Many years later, she is a happy and prosperous forensic accountant. Not because of thoughtful planning but rather because of dumb luck.

Similarly, I got my first job out of college because the man who hired me did not speak good English. He thought I had attended Havard while participating in Harbor junior college. Big difference. Ten years with that company launched my sales career that continues today. Again, unplanned serendipity. Dumb luck.

The Lesson

So, what to do? What is the lesson?

It is the same lesson it always is. Let go. Stop trying to manipulate and control. Love your child as he is. They need love. Trust they’ll make the right decisions. Give them space and time. And I hope for a bit of luck along the way.

And if you go with the College Prep Service, do it for yourself, not for your child. After all, they have a youth to live.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

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