“I cried the entire way to school to pick him up, and I haven’t stopped since,” a friend recently shared over breakfast at a popular downtown bistro.
A New York writer married to doctor, she and her husband are the quintessential Manhattanites. Successful high achievers, they carefully padded their son’s childhood with the best schools, camps, volunteer projects and tutors to ensure admission to a select college. Six months into his freshman year he was headed home to “reconsider his options” and they were incredulous.
I’ve heard this story many times before in various versions.
“My sister-in-law doesn’t want the ‘girls’ to work so they can focus on academics,” a friend has shared on occasion. I was weeding gardens at 14 so the “teens-shouldn’t-work” concept baffles me.
Raised in a housing project, the CFO sister-in-law preferred that her daughters summer in Italy and China for the cultural experience. No surprise then that when the oldest got her first internship, where actual work was required, she nearly went into convulsions.
Still, I’m not one to blame mom and dad. Those formative years between the cradle and college are a dangerous minefield that can quickly destroy the best of intentions. I’ve known people who’ve overcome horrible childhoods to rise to the top ranks of corporate America. Conversely, I knew a Park Avenue surgeon’s son who ditched Cornell to follow his guru.
When Savannah was born, I remember drilling my childhood friends Jenny and Vicky about their parenting style. In my new mother, neurotic state, I needed to know the club or activity that would guarantee Harvard admission. Soccer? Church choir? Boy Scouts?
“Golly, I never thought of those things,” said Jenny, the antithesis of a helicopter parent.
Her Zen parenting style, a stark contrast to the Alpha moms I know, is enviable. I can’t count the times I’ve heard her say, “Well, if my kids don’t go to college, there’s always McDonalds.”
Obviously, it work. Sans a single piano lesson or flash card, her oldest received a Fulbright Scholarship. And, as I like to remind myself during those hand-wringing parenting moments, he’s a happy kid.