I am currently reliving (for the 3rd time) that stressful, exciting, disappointing time of the year as my youngest son awaits news about which colleges have accepted him. Every time I have been through this, I reflect on how much pressure we as a society are putting on our children regarding their journey through life. It often starts with getting them into a good preschool, followed by good grade schools, etc. We hustle them from sports practice to dance or music lessons, or computer programming or scouts, or whatever the new buzz is that is guaranteed to help them succeed.
Don’t misunderstand me, I think that a good education and engaging extracurricular activities are important for children. They teach great skills and offer exposure to many new things. I just don’t see a need to over-schedule a child’s life. A more important question for me is “Am I raising a good citizen who can navigate this world as an adult? Is he resilient, thoughtful, compassionate, engaged? Does he have a good work ethic? Is he grounded emotionally and spiritually?” By my thinking these are the character traits that will help him be successful in his life. These are all things that his chosen community and his family teach and model for him.
All the talk at high school revolves around which college you will attend or what advanced classes are you taking. Even the rhetoric from the adult leaders is centered on college, as if that is the only successful journey you can make. Yes, my son is choosing to go to college, but it isn’t the right choice for everyone. If we look at it from the prospective of our youth who may feel crushed by the weight of societal expectations, can we change our rhetoric? Could our church community be a place where we can nurture the passions of our youth, regardless of outside pressures? A place where the question isn’t “Where are you going to college next year?” Instead we ask, “Tell me about yourself? What is your path? What brings you passion? Do you need support to follow that path?” And we stand there ready to offer that support and a safety net when needed.