I will admit it. I do often make life changes based on ideas I get from reading fiction. After reading the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins I realized my children were living in the Capitol. I felt they needed to be trained to be able to survive in a place like District 12. I started making my 5th grader ride his bike two miles to his Jujitsu class. His journey involved riding across the train tracks and two towns away, sometimes coming home in the dark. It was a remarkable enough situation that people in town were commenting on it. Now in eighth grade, he is no worse for wear and I believe is more independent and capable because of that experience. That being said, I would never let my youngest, who is now in fifth grade ,do the same thing. Different kid, different expectations.
I was a big fan of Robert Ludlum’s books when I was a teenager. An idea from one of his books stuck with me over the years. It is the notion of turn your liability into an asset, from The Holcroft Covenant. This nugget guided me when dealing with my oldest child, Peter. He was a less-than-stellar student in middle school and high school. As we went through the college process, my husband and I were worried because he did not seem motivated, his grades were not great and we’d never heard of any of the colleges that he would be qualified to attend. We were also worried that if he went to college would he be able to handle the work and the social life? We couldn’t afford to waste tens of thousands of dollars on a failed first semester.
Turn you liability into an asset popped into my head. I thought there must be a way to turn this situation to our advantage. Someone had suggested a gap year and I discovered that there was a USA Gap Year Fair in Chicago. My son humored me and went to the event. He chatted with a young man at the Carpe Diem Education booth. This kid’s story was how I envisioned my son’s first semester of college. Too much partying, had to go home, his parents twenty grand in the hole. Peter listened to this guy’s story and said he wanted to go.
Fast forward one year later: My son is that kid at the Gap Year Fair, sitting on the panel, in front of an auditorium full of interested high school kids, his sister included. He spoke eloquently about his bad grades, lack of motivation and begrudgingly coming to the gap year fair a year ago. He told the group that he signed up for the Carpe Diem Latitudes Program. He described his travels through four different countries, how he is nearly fluent in Spanish and is looking forward to going back to Guatemala in a week to help build a school. He said he now feels ready and excited to go to college in the fall.
When he came home from the fair, I hugged him and told him how proud I am of all his accomplishments in the last year. Then I thanked him for being him. If not for his particular journey in life we would never have looked at other options for him. He would never have experienced the world as he has this year and grown to be such an amazing young man.