I put the following quote on the board and asked the 6th graders what it meant.
Most of the students were unsure until I asked them what my purpose was. Then hands went up and I received answers of writer, teacher, and mom. They could see my purpose but not their own until I asked them what they like to do. The room buzzed with everything from singing and soccer to baking and dance. I explained that when I was their age I enjoyed writing stories. I suggested perhaps what they love to do now will one day turn into a career. It’s up to them to discover their passion and turn it into a burning flame.
Three days later, I sat with my son for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. It was just the two of us. He asked me if I ever heard of anyone taking a year off before entering college. Immediately panic gripped me. I’ve been preparing him for college since birth. We’ve had years of battles over GPA’s, homework, and the perfect amount of activities that will look good on his college resume. This is the first year I’ve taken a step back and allowed him to have complete control over all his grades without intervening or nagging as he would say. Parentlink sends me weekly grade reports and I hit delete…OK…I take a peek, and then hit delete.
My first response to his question was something about taking a year off and traveling around Europe. I thought maybe his independent nature would enjoy learning through exploration. He went on to tell me he wanted to pursue his music. Deep breathes. Deep breathes. When I was his age I left home to pursue acting. I’d be the biggest hypocrite in the world if I told him music was out of the question.
For years, Kai (my son), has been composing music. He’s played piano since he was three and when he decided to learn the drums in middle school he picked it up quickly. Now, he has a keyboard connected to his computer and he uses Cubase and Nexus to create songs. The headphones are on for hours and I text him to communicate. Entering his space while he’s composing can be dangerous. Almost as dangerous as when people interrupt me when I’m writing. I get it.
Sitting there at dinner, a peace came over me that took me by surprise. Shouldn’t I be mid lecture about the importance of college? No, I realized I was calm because I believe in my son. I believe in his passion for music. His work ethic for what he enjoys surpasses all my expectations. For the past three years, I’ve watched him spend days creating songs simply because it’s what he enjoys. He doesn’t get a grade, he’s not playing to someone else’s expectations, he’s learning how to produce music because it’s in him–it’s what he must do. I beg him to play the piano for me but he plays only when no one’s home. Sometimes I’ll stand outside the front door listening in amazement at how much he’s grown as a musician. Then the dog gives my presence away. He stops before the key is in the door.
I told Kai I would support his decision if he chooses to take a year off of school in pursuit of music. We would work something out. Of course, I also tried to explain that even though he could get a degree whenever he chooses this is his only opportunity to spend four years surrounded by his peers in an academic environment. Even missing a year would make him older than most other incoming freshman. College is as much about extending the time until you have to become an adult as it is about getting a degree. Stay a kid for as long as you can. I told him we would take all the college tours, he should keep his GPA up, and then this time next year, his senior year, he could decide what he wants to do.
It’s taken years but I finally am beginning to understand my role as a parent. I’m not here to control but to guide and to be the person my children can count on for everything… always. It’s not up to me to tell them what they should become. I can suggest and tell them what they may encounter along different paths. I can present options. I cannot live their life. It’s their journey.
Maybe it was the Moscato or having spent a week teaching preteens, maybe it’s the happiness I’ve felt for the past few years pursuing what I love…I can’t deny my son what’s in his heart. I believe in him. My beautiful boy.