When Your Child Takes a Different Path
Words by Jackie Konin
Expectations. We all have them, especially when it comes to our children. As parents we expect certain behaviors from them. We expect them to follow our rules, our lead. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t. And when our expectations for our children fall short, it can be devastating.
When my oldest child, now almost 26, was born I imagined what her future would be like. In all honesty, it looked pretty much like my life since that was my only reference point. I expected that she would do well in school, have lots of friends, go to college, have a career, get married. I never considered that she would have a different plan, or that the universe would.
When Brooke was in high school, it became apparent that she and school were not the best of friends. She struggled academically no matter how many tutors we got or how many visits to the teachers and counselor we made. I started to worry about where she would go to college. But she would go to college. That’s what I did. That’s what you do. You go away to a 4 year college. There is no other option. At least no other option for a child of mine. Or so I believed.
I was always a good student, especially in high school. I studied a decent amount and got good grades, enough to get into good schools including The George Washington University. I worked hard in undergraduate school while still having a great time, and then went to graduate school at The University of Pennsylvania. So maybe Brooke wouldn’t go to these schools, but she would do something similar. She would go away to college. Of course she would!
I’m not sure exactly when, but some time during the end of Brooke’s junior year in high school her guidance counselor tried to tell me that the schools I wanted Brooke to go to were not for her. She was wrong, I was certain of it. Until I had to face the truth - Brooke did not get into any school.
How did Brooke feel? She was upset. Me? Devastated. How could this be? What was she going to do? What was I going to do? How can I face the world? Those were the questions that were racing through my mind. Looking back now, I see how truly selfish I was being, but those were my thoughts. I was lost in the confusion that the plan I always envisioned for my daughter, the path that I expected she should take, was not going to happen.
I struggled with this new reality primarily because I had never considered that there could be an alternative path for my daughter. I was definitely guilty of not really seeing who Brooke was as an individual, as opposed to an extension of me. Admittedly, it took me some time to come to terms with the fact that Brooke would be attending community college and living at home. It was all so foreign to me. I wanted her to experience living away from home and I worried about her social life. She didn’t seem nearly as upset about this, so we sat down and discussed it.
To my amazement, Brooke’s perspective on all of this was way more mature than mine. She realized that community college was the best choice for her starting out. She knew how she struggled in high school and didn’t want to struggle in college, realizing that investing in a 4 year college right away would not have been the best for her or for my bank account. That conversation really enlightened me and gave me a whole new perspective. I realized that not everyone’s path is the same, and certainly my path doesn’t have to be the same one for any of my children. They are each unique and special in their own ways and I am very certain now that they will end up right where they are meant to be. I wish that I had felt this way 8 years ago, but expectations can be very ingrained.
Today, I am proud to say that my daughter graduated from Temple University. It took her 6 1/2 years, but it was the pace that was right for her. She has blossomed into a beautiful, confident, caring young woman with a wonderful life ahead of her, no matter what she chooses. As for me, I’m learning to keep my expectations to myself!
Jackie Konin is a multi-passionate entrepreneur who owns a women's clothing boutique, a skincare company, and is a business consultant for women who are or want to become entrepreneurs. She has 3 children who have made great choices in their lives and Jackie and her husband Michael have learned to help guide their kids rather than make the choices for them. She can be reached at Jackie@JackieKonin.com.