Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Relax, The Kids Are (Going to be) All Right

Austin got up early and made donuts this morning. That’s a simple statement, but it holds depths of meaning for me. The kid that never woke up on time and ended up missing the bus regularly got up at 5:00AM to make donuts. The kid who blew off his homework all the time in high school, practiced the baking skills he learned in culinary school just for fun.
Most of my kids are self-motivated when it comes to school. They do their homework every night with little to no prodding from me. They inherently strive to do well. They may not enjoy what they’re learning, but they know they need to do it, so they do. They earn very good grades; some with no effort, some with concerted effort. Most of my kids know what they want to be when they grow up (even though it might change a number of times before they reach college.) But Jackson (and Austin until recently) had no career ideas, had no plans, had no motivation, and just plain didn’t care about school or grades or graduating. I used to stress out so much over their lack of motivation and passion. I lost sleep, worrying that one day they’d be 40-year-old adults, still living with me, and working as the guy who twirls signs outside the mediocre cheesy beef restaurant.
I kicked myself. I should’ve pushed them harder in baseball. Maybe they could’ve had professional sports careers. Maybe I should have forced them to take piano lessons or Russian or tennis. Maybe they could’ve been on the Olympic curling team if I’d just focused more on keeping them busy with intense training, like sweeping my kitchen floor. I let them try out some sports over the years for fun, but I never got obsessive or signed them up for private lessons or anything. When my kids were running around outside hunting Woolly Mammoths, aka: the neighbor’s dog (What can I say? They have good imaginations), they could have been going to lessons to ensure their successful futures. But nooooo, I didn’t worry about my children’s future. I just let them be kids. I didn’t push them to do extra homework. I sucked at filling out reading logs and making sure they got their 30 minutes in every night. I kept thinking that eventually they’d learn. They had to learn someday, right? At some point, they’d figure out that education was important, they’d buckle down, and they’d be successful. Right? RIGHT?
Austin, the kid I worried wouldn’t graduate from high school last year, and indeed kept me guessing until THE WEEK OF graduation, is doing really well now. I mean, he’s doing 4.0 well! Austin joked around about being a hobo for years. In fact he wrote this guest post about his career ideas two years ago. AUSTIN’S GUEST POST Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait. Read it and you’ll understand why it left me wondering if it was too late to put him up for adoption. But here’s the thing. He was unmotivated and didn’t care about school while he was being forced to learn things that didn’t interest him. But once he started culinary school, he changed. He suddenly liked going to school. He practiced at home just for fun. He earned As on everything he did.
Looking back, I guess the signs were there all along. Remember those donuts Austin just made? When he was 12 years old, he decided to make donuts. By himself. He found a recipe, mixed up the ingredients, and proceeded to fry the dough. He melted my slotted spoon and spattered hot oil everywhere in the process. The outcome? These:
001 (1)
Yeah, they were less-than-edible, but still, you can see that he was into cooking several years ago. And now it’s his passion. Austin is who he is and I don’t think if I’d been pushier about his homework or other activities it would have made much of a difference. I don’t think it would’ve changed the outcome if I’d worked my butt off to ensure my child’s future would be successful.

Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t encourage your kids or offer them opportunities to try out a variety of activities. You should. You should push them to try their hardest and do their best. However, if the day comes where you’re waiting to see if they’ll even have enough credits to graduate and you start worrying that they’ll spend their adult years saying, “You want fries with that?”, relax. Things have a way of working out. Your kids will find their passion at some point.


Anonymous said...

This gives me hope that my kids will not all be homeless people. Thanks for the smile and hope. You know if he cooks well enough you can start charging your friends for dinner just to make ends meet.

Sarah said...

That is great! Good for him! Glad to hear he is doing well. :)

LauraC said...

I'm a long time reader (no commenter, which really isn't like me) but this post is very timely. I'm reading How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. I thought it's really relevant to your job and esp to this post. I'm not finished with the book but the pretense is that there are personality traits that determine a child's future much more powerful than book learning. It's giving me hope for my own children :)

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