My son is a Sophomore in high school. Which means he is caught in that odd transition between being a kid and being an adult. And I’m in that odd transition of wishing he was still my little boy, and trying to encourage his independence. This stage of mom-dom is really hard. I’m excited for him and everything his future holds, but in so many ways I wish I could go back in time to when he was curled up on my lap and we had his whole childhood still ahead of us, both of us in a happy and safe little cocoon together.
While I carry on my own inner turmoil about him growing up, I can see that he’s excited yet anxious in his own way. Teenagers today are put under a lot of pressure to grow up quickly… to take on extra-curricular activities at school, do community service, learn to drive, get a job, decide where to go to college or trade school and what to study, and even to decide what they want to become as an adult. All the while staying out of trouble, making healthy decisions about friends, partying, drugs and alcohol, and getting decent grades. That’s a lot to juggle.
The pressure to decide “what’s next” is the toughest. At a recent holiday party, friends of ours asked my son what he thought he might want to study in college, or if he had any thoughts as to what he’d like to do in the future. His response was honest. He said “Not really. I still have to raise my hand to ask to go to the bathroom, but they want us to decide what we are doing with the rest of our lives.”
At one point when he was feeling pressured and stressed about making decisions about his future, I had to speak not to the adult blooming within him, but to the kid inside. I told him that he is only 16. It is ok to not know. Sure, some kids seem to be born with a drive and direction from the get-go and strive to be a cop, a doctor, or a politican. But that’s pretty rare. I told my boy that he has no idea how big the world is out there, and the different things he could learn and do. When he gets to college, he will be amazed by the variety of areas of study.
Truly, the world is open to him, and the opportunities are far greater than when I was his age. Tonight we were talking about the various courses in his high school that he’s hoping to take in the next couple of years. Business Law, Psychology, Graphics, The History of Rock and Roll. How awesome is that? I think the most unusual courses I took were Music Theory and Shakespeare.
When I was graduating from high school and trying to decide on a path of study for college, I literally thought “Well, I like English. Guess I could major in that.” Two or three years in, I still had people saying “An English major? Are you going to teach?” Because that was the natural assumption. Especially for a woman. All I would say was “No, I don’t think so. Not sure what I’ll do.”
Funny thing, it all worked out in the end, even though I had no grand plan. I find it fascinating talking to other people, other Real Women, who have ended up doing something completely different than what they originally intended, or finding their passion in something other than what they prepared for in college. Many years after my graduation, now in my mid-life years, I am happily in a career that has combined my interests and passions with my skills. And I’ve given myself the gift of spending time writing. Which, when I think about it, is something I’ve always done. Even as a young girl, I wrote stories and kept journals. Huh. Go figure.
So who knows. Maybe my son will find some totally new and exciting direction in his future. Or maybe he’ll become any one of the many ideas he’s already tossed around, like being a History Teacher, or a Music Producer, or a Video Game Designer, or a Lawyer or an Actor. As far as I’m concerned, I think it is fine that he has not chosen a path. I don’t want him to feel trapped into making decisions before he’s ready. I hope that he explores a few different directions, tries new things, has fun along the way and takes “the road less traveled.” Because so very often, it is when we are exploring new views and new trails, looking all around us, absorbing all there is to see – that’s when we stumble into something awesome that feels right and makes us say “Oh yeah. That’s totally me.” And guess what. That probably isn’t going to happen at age 16.
Happy trails, my son.