This is the first in what will be an intermittent but recurring series — dealing with dilemmas of parenthood. Find all of them here:
I was recently driving Rogue One (8 y/o) and one of his neighborhood friends (7 y/o), when I overheard an interesting conversation. The friend described an invention he had conceived. I won’t provide details, because the concept is brilliant and I don’t want anyone to steal it. He isn’t sure how to make it yet, but he’ll be minting money when he does.
The friend was also discussing his plans to start a company to mass produce this invention. He was then going to create a couple other companies that would do other things. His goal was to do this over the next several years, leading to the following exchange:
Neighbor: I want to make these companies because I want to go to an Ivy League School. I really want to go to an Ivy League School and the companies will help me get in. I want to go to Harvard. I’ll be really upset if I don’t go to Harvard
Rogue One: I want to go to State U.
In reality he said the name of our flagship state university; I’m omitting it for now for the sake of anonymity.
Blueprint for success?
Rogue Mom and I both went to State U., as did my wife’s parents. We’re not far away, we make occasional visits, and I occasionally discuss the sports team. State U is the only college/university we ever talk about, and we speak positively of our experiences. It seems natural Rogue One would want to go there.
We’ve never discussed Ivy League universities with Rogue One. I haven’t asked how my son’s friend started dwelling on Ivy League Universities, but he seems a bit precocious, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he came to these ideas on his own.
I was a good student and had an option to attend an expensive, far-away university (though none in the Ivy League). My parents, thinking ahead to me attending graduate school, pushed me to give consideration to State U to avoid a massive loan burden. While I was a low-level thespian in high-school, I never envisioned it as a career. My parents, probably worried that theatre was my long-term goal, were fairly happy I chose medicine, but also thought that something more traditional was where I would end up.
When do I get to decide my kid’s future?
I waited until my junior year of undergrad, while pursuing a business degree, to choose medicine. I chose where to go to medical school a few days before graduation. It wasn’t until my 4th year of med school I decided to apply to a pediatric residency. I was 2/3 of the way through residency before deciding to apply for a pediatric emergency medicine fellowship. I was near the end of fellowship when I decided that the academic environment was my long-term home.
The point is — when it comes to life/career goals, I tend to deliberate. I’m not in a position to push my kids to pick their careers early. That doesn’t mean Rogue Mom and I aren’t exerting influence.
Rogue One just finished second grade. Since he started Kindergarten we’ve discussed the importance of education. Working hard is our one consistent expectation for him, regardless of results. His school doesn’t give out traditional grades yet, but the goal is to instill in him the inner desire to work hard. We frequently discuss college as a concept and our expectation that he will attend one after high school.
I don’t know how much any of this impacts him. He goofs off plenty in his classes, despite various reminders, punishments, behavior charts, and reward systems. His aspirations of making robots to help the needy and of being a veterinarian (or both) are dreams of his own. We are fortunate to be in a position where we can help nurture those dreams a little (such as paying for some fancy robotics camp this summer). If he wanted to play professional football (unlikely since it doesn’t make his top 6 list of favorite sports), I do wonder if I would pay for a fancy football camp.
So what’s a parent to do?
I don’t know — once I figure it out I’ll write a book and get a talk show. Of course, I could probably do those things without knowing what to do.
In the nature vs. nurture debate, we can only control the latter. Creating supportive environments, providing good role models, and setting high expectations. That’s my best guess. Sure, money helps, but as our current political and business environment shows, money and “success” are not necessarily correlated with good character.
The more time I spend parenting, the more I realize that I’m not as in control as I think I am or want to be. Sometimes I’m too hard, and sometimes I’m too easy. Sometimes it’s obvious when I’m off base, and I am not always sure when I’m on target (in the rare circumstances I am).
I can’t even get Rogue Two to stay in bed. He keeps sneaking out and hiding on the stairwell — he doesn’t seem to respect my authority.
What are your thoughts on setting expectations for kids? Spill your magic parenting secrets below.