Graduation, the next generation and letting our kids find themselves

Images This week one of the front page articles in the NY Times was about private uptown schools and how much money parents are spending on tutors to get A's in every subject.  The question that rings out to me is simple, is it the parents or the curriculum. Probably a bit of both.  It continues to go full circle as many parents are determined that their kid gets into the best colleges in the country regardless of the kid.  My guess is that they don't pay so much attention to the needs, desires and assets of the kid but more to just getting the As, getting into the best college and then see where the chips fall.  The tutors can and do cost up to the same or more than the annual tuition.  You can't help but wonder if the curriculum is so ridiculous for a 15 to 17 year old mind that they need to be handheld and tutored on a daily basis to get through the curriculum.  One will never know but I'd be curious what percentage of kids in the elite schools of NYC receive tutoring a few times a week.  The schools know damn well that tutors are abundant because kids getting Bs and below are asked to leave.  I know that for a fact because many of those kids have shown up at our kids school where they totally excel. 

Then on the front page of the Dining section, same day, there is an article on second and first generation immigrant children whose parents push them to be doctors, bankers and lawyers and go to the very best schools. They say one thing but inside the house practice something else.  They are restaurant entrepreneurs who love what they do because their kids grow up in that environment.  These kids who did go to some of the best schools in our country are coming back to take over the family businesses they love because in life you should love what you do, at least I think so. 

An interesting take on both articles. I lean towards the second. Our kids have grown up in a house of entrepreneurs and so for them to grow up and do their own thing will not be surprising. Working for Goldman Sachs would be shocking. But we are believers in being happy and following your dreams to what turns you on. Pushing your kids to be something they aren't is terrible.  They aren't you they are them.  I do wonder about the next generation of kids who have been hand held each step of the way.  I certainly met and read about many of those children reaching that college goal and then literally wondering who they are and having a complete change of mind and heart of where they are as they get off the train and take a pause. 

Just to wrap these thoughts about, in the Sunday section of the NYTimes during graduation time they always post a few of the words spoken at graduation ceremonies across the country.   Many of the speakers were so poignant and spot on but I thought that Anna Quindlen, a mother herself, spoke the words that talk to what I wrote about today. She spoke at Grinnell College in Iowa. 

Here are a few quotes and for the full speech, which is fantastic, click here. 

We’re now supposed to apologize to you because it seems that that’s no longer how it works, that you won’t inherit the SUV, which was way too big, or the McMansion that was way too big, or the corner office that was way too big. That you will not do better. But I suggest that this is a moment to consider what “doing better” really means.

If you are part of the first generation of Americans who genuinely see race and ethnicity as attributes, not stereotypes, will you not have done better than we did? If you are part of the first generation of Americans with a clear understanding that gay men and lesbians are entitled to be full citizens of this country with all its rights, will you not have done better than we did? If you are part of the first generation of Americans who assume women merit full equality instead of grudging acceptance, will you not have done better than we did? And on a more personal level, if you are part of the generation that ditches the 80-hour work week, and returns to a sane investment in your professional life, the first generation in which young women no longer agonize over how to balance work and family, and young men stop thinking they will balance work and family by getting married, won’t you have done better than we did?

Believe me when I tell you that we made a grave error in thinking doing better is mathematical, a matter of the number at the bottom of your tax return. At the end of their lives, all people assess how they’ve done, not it terms of their income, but in terms of their spirit, and I beg you to do the same even if those who came before sometimes failed to do so. And I beg you not to let fear define you.
The voices of conformity speak so loudly. Don’t listen to them. People are going to tell you what you ought to think and how you ought to feel. They will tell you what to read and how to live. They will urge you to take jobs they loathe themselves and to follow safe paths that they themselves find tedious. Don’t do it. Only a principled refusal to be terrorized by these stingy standards will save you from a Frankenstein life made up of others’ expectations grafted together into a poor semblance of existence. You can’t afford to do that. It’s what has poisoned our culture, our community and our national character. No one ever does the right thing from fear and so many of the wrong things are done in its shadow. Homophobia, sexism, religious bigotry, xenophobia – they’re all bricks in a wall that divides us, bricks cast of the clay of fear, fear of that which is different or unknown.
At the end Quindlen wraps up with "We’ve let kindness slip away in our culture, too, trading it for candor which was not an even trade. Bring kindness back to our society."  What we also need to bring back to society is embracing the diversity and intelligence of each child by allowing them to create their own path, find their own identity and let them make mistakes, plenty of them, because we learn by our mistakes.  Expect your children to do what they are capable of not what they aren't.  Let them embrace their own personal loves and desires so that they move forward in their own lives, happy and confident and not living their lives for their parents expectations.  Living the latter can only turn out to be unhappy for all parties involved.