BB2C Parent Perspective: Beth Maidens Part 2

In her own words...

When my own children began to consider what to do after graduation, we emphasized the importance of doing what would make them happy and content. "Choose a career that doesn't feel like work" is what my husband preached. We didn't expect our two kids to make THE DECISION by age 18 and never question it again. We just expected them to have a plan. That plan did not have to involve a 4-year college degree. We would support any avenue of growth. Little did we know that even the best laid plans......

When our teenage son would tell us he might want to be a philosopher, we would smile and say if that made him happy, then by all means pursue that dream. What I was actually thinking was "how are you going to pay any bill or buy groceries with that job?" I bit my tongue. Then, a few months later, he would switch gears and talk about studying Russian history or physics. I felt like a bobblehead. I sat and patiently listened to all his interests and ideas without uttering the feedback I felt bubbling inside me. As adults, we know the importance of money in our lives and therefore, we often feel the need to emphasize that to our kids.  I had committed myself not to emphasize salary to dampen or excite my son's vision. I knew for sure from his freshman year to his senior year in high school, he was exploring outside the box as we had encouraged from an early age. I was not sure, however, he had any clue about the future, let alone a plan. When he graduated from high school in 2012, he began his post secondary experience at a community college. I knew when he enrolled, he was not happy. I didn't think to suggest that maybe he take a year and explore the work industry. I assumed once he was in college, it would all come together. It didn't. Our son dropped out of school within the first semester and took some time to make a plan. He worked at a bowling alley to earn enough money to drive his car and hang with friends. Even today, we aren't real sure what happened in that six month period to help him see a clearer picture of himself but he made the decision to join the United States Air Force.  We didn't expect that drastic change in his plan. But his reasons were very logical and sincere. He received training in the field of photojournalism and will use that training when he makes his after-military career decision. My son just needed to step away from the pressure of planning so that he could plan. That never made sense to me until we lived through it.  Not all students are ready to make those choices by the age of 18. 

We have come a long way in helping kids make plans for the future. I have seen a shift in the idea that college is the only answer. Parents, school counselors, teachers, and other advisors have a clearer picture of connecting kids with their interests and abilities. We are seeing that technical training can lead to jobs that surpass college educated professionals in job demand, salaries and benefits. Why do we want to push students into costly and frustrating settings before they are ready? My own kids are examples of navigating through choices and allowing a path to be fluid so that the best possible decisions are made early and without overwhelming pressure. "What do you want to be when you grow up?" This question still excites kids from ages 5-18! Maybe our next question should be "How can I help you?"