We’re now doing this really scary experiment – experimenting with our child’s future and his college preparedness.
The norm among everyone we personally know and what I read online is that to prepare a child for college, you must keep close tabs on his grades, help him sign up for extracurricular activities, specifically at least one sports activity and at least one music activity, encourage him to take on leadership roles in clubs and social groups outside school, and also sign him up for community service work. There are probably several other activities that people do to gain an edge over others that I am not aware of, because just this basic list leaves me exhausted.
We chose to opt out. We didn’t choose this just because we felt overwhelmed by what apparently needs to be done to guarantee my sons’ admission to an elite college. We did it because my son told us he wanted out. It’s not that he doesn’t want to go to college – he definitely does, but he wants to do it on his own terms. And, we let him decide.
The elite geek
So now, my son spends most of his free time on video games. He also makes YouTube videos on gaming. He is avidly interested in astrophysics and visually devours documentaries related to outer space, as well as glimpses of it in the popular sitcom, The Big Bang Theory. Because he prides himself on his nerdiness, he checks out videos on Khan academy related to Quantum mechanics. And, he’s memorized the entire periodic table.
With regard to arts, he is definitely interested in grammar and vocabulary, as well as in reading about Greek and Roman mythology, but that is the extent of it. I suspect the latter is more because of references in science fiction movies. Most disappointing to me is that he now disavows reading. I understand that in this day and age, there are many mediums of acquiring knowledge or being entertained other than the written word; still, it pinches that he doesn’t read actual books.
It also worries me that at this stage, he doesn’t seek a broader understanding of more subjects. Because of that, his grades are ‘A’s in Science and Math, but ‘B’s in all other subjects. I did the Asian mom thing by threatening to unplug his computer if he got worse, but that’s the extent of it.
Jocks v Nerds
We tried different sports, but truth be told, my son never had a penchant for sports. The best he did in was swimming, but even there, I could tell, he never had the interest to do well or be competitive. After keeping him in swimming long enough for him to be comfortable in water and competent enough to swim in the ocean, we mutually agreed to give up taking any more classes. The only ‘sports’ that he is still interested in is martial arts, which we continue with for now.
Musically not yours
When he was a toddler, my kid used to insist on music being played continuously during car rides. He had a list of songs he loved and soon, we started sitting down with him to compile all his favorites into CDs. He also used to pick up songs very easily, even the Hindi ones, though he didn’t understand the words. He also used to keep the beat, used to beat-box well, such that we considered putting him for drum classes because he was so good at it. He now plays the clarinet in his middle school band. He also started piano classes two years back but he frequently talks about quitting nowadays.
The Husband, being a music connoisseur who was not able to develop his singing talent owing to financial constraints in his childhood, would have loved it if our son had chosen a career, or even developed his music affinity much further, but here again, we are ceding to his wish that he doesn’t want to spend that time.
So effectively, by letting him do what he wants, we are either doing him a favor by not pushing him or doing him a tremendous disservice by not pushing him, especially in areas where we know he can be successful. This haunts me everyday, leaving me to wonder if he’ll end up playing video games in our ‘basement’ or whether he will be recognized as a focused, intelligent individual? Will people give him a chance for honing in on his interests or will they disqualify him because he’s not an all-rounder? Will he blame us for not guiding him and insisting on more? And, is it even worth worrying about since we parents really don’t have much say in the matter at this point?