It has been a few months since I have written a new post. Sorry for the lull, and thanks to those who commented on past posts.Things have been enormously busy here on the home front and I am sure that is also the case with you. Among the usual family hub bub that comes with summer fun, we just sent our son off to college. Big change! I hope that by sharing our experience, we can in some way inspire those embarking on this journey now or in the near future. Parents who have already gone through this may enjoy recalling bitter sweet memories that came with their own son or daughter college send off.
We all knew that the day was drawing near when our son would begin the next chapter of his life – yes, without the rest of us. We chose not to think about those final moments on the schedule to give families time to say good-bye. Instead, we kept busy and focused on picking up the last-minute items we thought he “might” need for his dorm room. The truth was he had everything he needed – we just wanted to keep busy. When down time kicked in, we would start talking about how the dinner table was going to feel different, how his sister was going to miss watching television on Saturday mornings snuggled on the sofa, how we might not cook pork and beans because he was the only one who liked it…and the list goes on. The days passed and yes, it came – the pack up the car moment…the time when it all became really real…the page was turning, one story was ending and a new one – was beginning.
“Okay, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, family members, it is now time to give your son or daughter the biggest hug…wish them well” said Madam College President…huh? this is my son…my world…my life…didn’t I just buy him the Buzz and Andy figures yesterday…didn’t we just make Harry Potter wands out of twigs??
It was time – time for the send off words…I looked up at him and said, “Michael …go for your dreams…your happiness is all I care about…work hard, change lives…make friends …and remember your family …and without thinking…we all formed a family huddle…arms draped around each other in love…forming the one thing that time itself couldn’t change – the bond of our love as a family.
When I came up out of our circle – I was inspired beyond words by what I saw…countless families were connected in the same huddle…all in a wonderful embrace of love. Tears…watery eyes everywhere..it was an incredible moment and one I will never forget.
Yes, Princess Diana is so right…FAMILY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD…and that inspired truth is forever changeless.
Our children today are, for the most part, travelling the same “path to success” that we followed years ago. They go to school to receive a good education, learn the importance of working hard and how to become responsible adults. The basics – Math, Science, English, History – are the core subjects that challenge their thinking. Test grades in these subjects are the primary metrics used to measure performance. At the end of a term, they take a test, receive a score and if all goes well, receive a “pass” to go on to the next round. The cycle continues. Everyone is hopeful that all the time invested will pay off and for the hard workers, it usually does.
So what’s the problem?
In my opinion, I don’t think children are encouraged enough to aim high, to go out of their comfort zone, to take risks and not worry so much about the outcome or what everyone else thinks about their effort to try. To go for whatever they want to go after – without fear. Unfortunately, the pressure to be successful stumps the “wild shot” kids are often willing to take to make their dreams come true. Risk taking is not viewed favourably if the odds of success are not in their favour. In his new book, the ICARUS DECEPTION, Seth Godin (one of may favorite authors) writes “in our industrial culture, we talk about “sink or swim” but there is not as much sinking going on as you might expect. There’s a fair amount of treading water, a whole lot of people unwilling to get into the pool at all. But not so much sinking. We’ve greatly exaggerated the risk of sinking without celebrating the value of swimming.” This really resonates with me. It isn’t easy to go outside of our own comfort zone let alone challenge our little ones to do the same. Are children encouraged enough to try out for the team? Enter the contest? Try out for the play? Run for the school council position- without the fear of failing? It certainly doesn’t mean not making children aware of the possibility of being disappointed. It does however mean, instilling a “so what” attitude at whatever the outcome – and kudos for trying. I can’t stress enough how important this is to success in the later years. If children aren’t encouraged to take risks along life’s journey, they grow up to become adults who aren’t willing to speak up, to challenge the status-quo, to offer an opinion or counter someone else’s position. Why? Fear. Fear in upsetting the momentum in the room or for possibly having the wrong answer. Instead, they choose to be silent, usually sit “safely” in the back of the meeting room and allow everyone else to drive the agenda. Comfortable.
Growing up in a family of seven children – we all encountered our big “try-out” moments. The run for the quarter-back spot or the position on the school’s newspaper editorial team. Every time any one of us considered “going for it”, my father always said with conviction, “every time you step up to the plate you have the chance to hit a home run. And if it doesn’t happen, you’ll always have another chance at bat.” That’s a great message to teach our children. Not to be afraid to pursue their dreams and aspirations. That it’s okay to go outside their own comfort zone and take risks. That is the message I wish our kids heard more often. To be applauded for attempting to defy the odds and just going for it. Without worry. Without fear. Just because they believed enough in his or her own ability to give it their best shot and feeling accomplished for having done so.