Coming to My Senses: Of Grandmothers, College Aspirations, and 8-Year-Olds

I’ve been spending time with our 8-year old grandson during this holiday season. Since my world has been about college and university students and because I, too, am caught up in the mad race that many all around the world are in about college and the future for our next generations, I look at him and begin to assess his potential as a successful college student.

For example, when he is playing flag football, and doesn’t get as many flags as his teammates, or when his friends play an instrument and he chooses not to, or when his friends love chess and he is very casual about it, I begin to think about college entrance test scores, how many service projects he will have to do, and special talents that might have an impact on his college acceptance and success. In other words, when he is looking at the other children as friends, I’m looking at them as competition.

And then, I move beyond college and think about the global competition he will face for jobs, and I wonder if he will excel in whatever might be the most sought-after skill for that unknown future time. Finally, I come to my senses and think back to when I was eight, and all that happened in my life between third grade and my senior year in high school.

Eight years is a critical age for children, but it does not have to set the course for their future. When I was eight years old, no one was thinking about what college would accept me. If any thought were given to me, it was with whom I would live and under what circumstances.

If I use my less-than-ideal experiences as an 8-year-old as an example, I can relax and realize that mistakes that adults make in bringing children up, opportunities that children miss, and coincidences that affect the lives of children do not necessarily predict what the future will hold for them.

I also have to remember that I was not a good athlete, did not play a musical instrument, and had no strong passion toward any particular activity. In contrast, our grandson is a good athlete, has a strong interest in knowing everything there is to know about football and the players, and he is passionate about winning in any competition. He has an extensive vocabulary, reads incredibly well, is an analytical thinker, is opinionated,  and relishes finding holes in any argument that is counter to his perspective. He has a strong moral compass, and when I want to bend the rules, he brings me up short on what is right and what is wrong.

Importantly, he is eight and is enjoying these few years when he is not anxious about college, jobs, and what the future holds. Being concerned about these issues are for the adults in his life such as grandmothers who know a thing or two about higher education and the outlook for the future.

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