Happy Birthday, Dr. Brazelton! Dr. T. Berry Brazelton celebrates his 89th birthday of what has been a life extraordinarily well-spent. As he repeated today on NPR’s Morning Edition, his advice has always been to look to the child–observe your child, figure out what kind of child you have, and go from there. What a wise and loving man. He is one of my heroes, along with the late Fred Rogers.
Listening to Dr. Brazelton made me think a little about what advice I would offer parents today, and as it happens, I have some! We visited our son at Macalester College this past weekend, and he also turned 20 yesterday. It’s crazy how fast his time at college is flying by–half over already, and he just started. But what’s even crazier is how much of children’s lives these days are spent in preparing them for the college application process. Peter Abrahams made a gentle jab at this phenomenon in his funny mystery Down the Rabbit Hole,
in which the 8th grader’s father is preoccupied with her algebra grade because he’s worried she won’t get on the right math track to get into Yale, or was it Princeton, but really…who cares? That’s my point. With the thousands of colleges out there, how is it we actually spend the lifetime of our children worrying ourselves and worrying them about where they will spend four incredibly fast-moving years?
It’s very hard not to get sucked up into it, even if you don’t have one particular college you are hoping your child will attend. You still try to make sure the grades are good and the preschool/grade school/middle school/high school are the best they can be to get them ready for college, and that they have a wide range of talents and experiences, and they volunteer and take leadership roles, and….good grief!
Do we do it for them, or do we do it for us? You probably noticed that I worked in the name of my son’s very fine college with its very fine reputation, right? I think it’s a lot for us, so we can compete in the parental college olympics. So here’s my advice for parents: help nurture your child into being a strong, loving person who has a sense of his/her strengths and what they might be called to do in life, and refuse to worry about college at least until high school. Sure, your child probably won’t get into World’s Best College that way, but it’s just not that important. Really.
Now, how do I work that into the conversation with the parents at the library? Hmmm.