“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” Nelson Mandela
“One of the best investments we can make in a child’s life is high-quality early education.” —US President Barack Obama in today’s State of the Union Address
“Wasn’t it just yesterday that I held your hand on your first day of school in pre-nursery?”, I kissed my daughter’s cheek on her first day of school. Nine years ago, my daughter went back to school, to take her Masters of Arts in Creative Writing. I hugged her for “good luck” to mark another milestone in her life. How time flies indeed.
If my parents were alive today, they’d crinkle their brows “What? A starving writer?”
Most parents in the 50s and 60s determined the college courses of their children. Just a few examples in my family. My mom decided that I should take Food Technology when I wanted Business Administration. Mom had a bake shop during those days, and having a food technologist could prove to be an asset. My sister, Lorna wanted to take Speech but mom said there is no money in that field so she dictated Hotel and Restaurant Administration. My younger sister, Myrna yearned to be a writer but mom said “take up Architecture”. Guess where we all ended up? I ended up in the field of business. Lorna is in marketing/public relations while Myrna is now the Mayor in a city in Califorina. Our UP education was not wasted, however, because we took along the discipline, determination and hard work in our respective careers.
My husband took up Law because it was expected of him, being the eldest son with three generations of lawyers in his family. Naturally, relatives probe my daughters, “so will you be a lawyer like your dad?”
Maybe my daughter might have the makings of great lawyer but would she be happy enough to sustain a law career in her forties? She could have taken up Law because it is expected of her to do so but ditch it by the time she is forty.
I learned from my parents. When the girls consulted with me on their college degrees, I said “Do whatever you want. Follow your passion. Because if you are happy in the work that you do, there is no need for me to worry if you will be successful. You will be successful if you’re doing something that you love to do.”
Rewind. Before the girls went to college, I instilled four things:
- that will make you unique and competitive.
- I enrolled them in non-academic courses or engaged them in extra-curricular activities that nurtured their talents. Such activities revolved on ballet , piano and voice lessons, fun science experiments, crafts, swimming, choir tours, computer and web development. I sacrificed on a lot of luxuries just so the girls could enjoy these activities.
2. Money Management
We know that the high income earning jobs are usually from Information Technology, Engineering, Business, Economics, Doctors which none of my girls are taking up. I believe that kids need to learn how to manage their money in order to gain financial freedom no matter their chosen careers. So even if they will turn out to be writers or a chef, they will know how to manage their income and expenses. Money management started when they were little kids. It meant that they couldn’t demand to covet the latest gizmos and gadgets. They knew our priorities and often understood our reasons. My kids never acted like spoiled brats when I told them “no, we can’t buy that right now. Maybe some day. Or let me save for it first.”
3. Do your best but also have fun.
Lauren was a gifted child early on and raked honors till her third grade. I am not sure what happened to her but her grades declined. Maybe a large, traditional school was not ideal for a gifted and sensitive child. Maybe I missed out on something in her development, but I told her not to be pressured to cough up high grades just for me. Their grades belonged to them. I believe kids shouldn’t be displayed as trophies to show off to relatives. A relative used to brag to my dad that her daughter raked so many honors, garnered this and that award and asked very tactlessly “So your kids have any honors?”
I did advise my two girls that to enter into a top-notch university, one needed high grades. It was a reality of life. It was their choice to get high, mediocre or low grades. In the end, I often said “just do your best without losing all the fun”. (Fun meant healthy activities, of course)
4. A life of prayer
Prayer is something that cannot be taught. Parents set that example. They have to see it in me. When the going gets rough, I just say to lift their problems and struggles to God.
“Children have to be educated, but they have also to be left to educate themselves.” Ernest Dimnet