There's a college fair in town today. John and I are going to go check it out. We went two years ago, but he was a Freshman that year. (We went for James, and John got to hang out with his buddy, who was a Junior. I'm pretty sure the parents got the most out of that one, just by standing back and observing.) I am, however, hopeful that this year he'll get more out of it, and maybe get excited about visiting schools.
I really hope I'm doing this right. You want your children to be happy. You want them to challenge themselves. You want them to have a life filled with good work and strong connections. You want them to be all they can be (in the Army, or in civilian life - although kudos to the Army's marketing team for absolutely owning a phrase for all eternity. Well played, my friends. Well played.)
But where's the line between pushing them too hard and, say, encouraging them to punt? How do you nurture their passions without neglecting Something Really Important That You Didn't Think About? And how do you make sure you're not squashing their inner momentum with what you perceive to be Good Advice? What's the best way to encourage-but-not-badger? And do they need to be badgered sometimes? And how big of a badger do you need to use?
Sadly, these are just variations on the same questions I've been asking for 18 years. I'm no closer to the answers. (Although during one conversation, one of the kids did say, "Sometimes, I need to be nagged. I'm sorry, but it's true." So, yay for honesty?) All I have are some moderately successful ideas, some "Yeah, never do that" ideas (and, of course, the caveat there is "never do that for that particular child", because the next child may very well respond quite well to whatever broke the previous one). The learning curve is steep and... curvy.
But then, James and I were talking about do-overs the other day. He's got a few he'd like to take. I've got a few (or... more than a few...) I'd like to take. He asked some pretty direct questions about what kind of do-overs I had in mind if I could go back and try again with him. (There was definitely a kind of, "Whoa, whoa, whoa there. What kind of craziness might I have dodged?" feel to the line of questioning. It made me laugh.) Turns out, he liked his childhood. He appreciates his education. He loves his life. He encouraged me to just leave it alone if I do get the chance to go back and change things.
To be truthful, I probably wouldn't leave it alone. I would be gentler when I was tired. I would spend more time doing art and making messes. I would be far less fearful. I would be more fun. I would heed Good Advice when it was handed to me. But don't tell him that, please. He's happy, and I'm so, so glad.