My daughter is considering a delay in attending post-secondary education to pursue her dreams in the musical world. My husband and I support her decision, which has left her friends in a state of shock. It is unfathomable for them that a parent would actually allow a seventeen-year-old to forgo academic pursuit for a career with so many risks associated with it. Am I a horrible parent? Should I be protecting her from a world wrought with challenges and disappointments, even if she has passion and talent? Should I instead strong-arm her into a field that our culture has deemed solid and secure?
My job as a parent is to protect my children and help them become successful members of society. It is not to secure them in bubble wrap for protection against any and all things dangerous. Yet, I feel pressure to do just that. I have raised my children to be independent, which means there are times I do not get involved when other parents may have. They have had to face the repercussions of their mistakes, even though I often could have protected them. I have allowed them to choose for themselves, even if it was not a choice I would have made. I have stepped back when many other parents would have stepped forward. “We” did not do their homework; “they” did their homework. I always said, I would rather they get their own “B” then my “A.” During this process, I wondered if my contrarian parenting views were wrong because frequently society told me that: I should be letting them think it was someone else’s fault when things went wrong to deflect any hint of failure from them; I am the parent so I know what is best therefore I get to choose for them; and that if their homework or project wasn’t fixed by me before submission, it wasn’t “their” best work.
But, what are the results? I have children who know how to handle failure, their failure. I have children who can make decisions. I have children who have their own voice (which is sometimes, I have to admit, annoying). I have children who are pursuing fields that they are truly passionate about and I believe destined to be in. Because of that, not only are they happy, they are propelled by their own passion, not fear, anxiety or parental expectation. Isn’t that what we all ultimately want?
I realized that my child is not dropping out. She is leaping into life and taking a chance on an opportunity that many never get. What kind of risk is that? That she may fail and have to go to plan B which does involve post-secondary education? Where is the downside?
Randy Pausch in the “Last Lecture” reiterates what many others have said before, but I felt him qualified to confirm: It is not the things we do in life that we regret on our death bed. It is the things we do not. By going after her dream, she will never have this regret.
My child is embarking on a journey with no map and no guarantees. There is potential for failure. There are risks. But, in my eyes, she is a success already and I could not be prouder. She has defeated fear of the unknown and fear of failure with just one step and I have decided I want to be just like her when I grow up.