By Michael Holland
We plan and guide and push and pull our kids towards paths that we envision will help them be successful in life. What’s been so interesting for us over the last couple of years is how different the paths our kids have taken have been from our vision. I find myself in many conversations where I’m saying “all is good, just different than we thought.”
Recently our youngest son made a courageous decision, well not courageous like a Marine might have to make, but in the current world a tough decision all the same. He decided to not go back to college for a semester and instead take a couple of online classes and work. The short story is that he decided he would transfer colleges in the fall which led him down a decision path during Christmas break of why was he going back for the spring semester at his then current college. He ultimately decided to save money from the semester and work to get to the college he’d prefer.
During conversations with friends, colleagues, strangers, I find myself adding in comments about his decision to make sure people know all is fine, just different. But the truth is that some of those comments are really be made to make me feel worthy in the eyes of those around me. I’ll add-in his super GPA from the first semester or I’ll focus on his solid financial decision making or I’ll focus on the colleges he’s applying to for the fall. As I replay the interactions where I’ve used those comments, I realize I often felt compelled to substantiate the different path in order to rise-up to the perceptions of others of me and our family.
Turns out all three of our kids have made decisions that are different from “normal” societal paths. They have made choices – good, mature choices – about where they want their lives to go. Eight years ago I never would have predicted we’d be where we are during this season of life.
It’s funny, we so desired that our kids would learn to be critical thinkers and here we are with them using those exact skills to make a life for themselves. They go against the “standards of society” and expectations of most, if not all, their peers and our peers. They are walking in life as adults making decisions for themselves and owning up to those decisions and potential impacts. Low and behold, that’s really what we’ve been praying for them all along.
As men and fathers we never stop working to be guides for our kids. And if we’re smart, we’ll keep our eyes wide open to see how our kids can reflect the guidance back to us.