Sometimes I wonder where I would be in my career if I had been more prepared for the academic requirements of college. It’s not that I haven’t had my successes, but with the sputtering kind of start I had those first semesters at Utah State, it took more time than necessary, and a series of small miracles, to even graduate from college.
I remember the day that three of my best buddies and I hopped in one of our parents K-cars, cranked up a Foot Loose cassette tape (which we played non-stop the entire trip) and drove to Idaho to visit a college. Our plan was to start there, then hit Utah State on our way back home. We were to be gone for 2 whole days without adult supervision, and the feeling of freedom was exhilarating! We were going to conquer the world!
Now fast forward with me several months to the start of my first semester at Utah State.
Too shy to ask for directions on campus, I was late to every class that first day and felt extremely embarrassed ducking in. As I looked at the other students it seemed that everyone else was confident, happy, and on top of things. In contrast, I felt completely lost. You see no one from my family had gone to college for more than a semester or two and I had decided to do the same thing, just for the social experience before “getting serious with life” and getting a real job. As a result, I was uninformed about the whole college process, including the selection of classes.
After nearly two weeks of sitting through a particular science class, my anxiety about the overwhelming pile of homework and readings that had built up, and my confusion trying to follow a lecture from our professor, finally outweighed my fear of talking to another student. So I leaned over to the guy sitting next to me and asked
Me: “Do you understand what he’s talking about”.
Student: “Yeah…don’t you?”
Student: “Haven’t you taken Geology 200, 265, 300, etc.?”
Student: “Wow! You better drop this class fast, because this is an upper level class only for people who have taken these other courses.”
I laugh now but…It also makes me sick remembering how clueless I was!
Don’t get me wrong, in a lot of ways I believe I was more prepared than many kids my age in the area of not being afraid of hard work and being able to sacrifice now to reach my goals. In the end, those are pretty important traits (i.e. I didn’t drop out). But when it came to academic pursuits, I have to acknowledge that my success here has been a result of several miracles that I’ll share at another time under the heading of “When Pigs Fly and Other Marvels”.
On the flip side some of us as parents do so much for our children to ensure their success that they naively believe that the world just works for them. Pampering our children might stem from our fear that they will fail miserably if we don’t step in. Or we smooth out their path because we have the resources to make life easy and it’s painful to see them struggle. As a result, some teens have few internal resources to manage difficult emotions like confusion, embarrassment, anxiety, and frustration, and rather than stick in there when the going gets tough, they may look for ways to lesson the anxiety which means they are avoiding the steps that lead to independence as well as happiness.
I believe that our primary job as parents in helping our children become independent is to help them develop both tactical understanding of how to take on new challenges, as well as the emotional strength to hang in there when life is difficult. I hope you’ll find that this issue of Notes From Home will do just that. Enjoy the articles, task lists, and book reviews, and let us know what you think of the new design too!
To Your Family’s Success and Happiness!