For the last five years, my son’s schedule has been packed to the max. His extra hours were filled with extracurricular activities so that he could be that well-rounded, competitive person that top colleges seek. His every hour was accounted for, calculated, manipulated – by me.
I first noticed, and was nervous about, the competition that my son would face when I reviewed resumes for internship positions for a white-glove firm I used to work with. One student wrote a paper for NASA when he was 21, another, was a double math and chemistry major in college at age 17, and yet another, a high school senior finalist in the Intel competition who was doing research at Cooper Union. The achievements were endless and impressive. I thought to myself, how will my boy compete with that?
The tiger mom within me roared, and I threw my son into all types of activities to see which would stick. It started with my dreams of him becoming an Olympic ping-pong player. He trained, heavily and expensively, with a professional coach and entered competitions until Chinese kids half his height and age began to beat him. Then he tried basketball where he chipped a tooth. I once even claimed that he was Hispanic (he is half Chinese and half Italian) so that he could compete for a minority music scholarship at Juilliard. We backed out of the audition right before his turn, when I became ashamed of my dishonesty.
Yeah, I know, overboard. My son informed me the same.
He took over his own path last year in the 9th grade, and soon his schedule was packed with the things he wanted to do. He won a scholarship to learn Mandarin in China over the summer. He is a Recanati-Kaplan Music Scholar at the 92nd Street Y where he studies classical guitar. These are activities that he is passionate about.
I learned my lesson well. I learned that my son’s schedule does not need to be filled with tons of activities to impress others. He just needs one or two that he enjoys is committed to, and that fit into his school schedule so as not to overwhelm him. I also know now that he has his own dreams and achievements that he wants to pursue without me henpecking him.
There is no question that students need to be competitive these days but they need to find something they are passionate about and are dedicated to show they are committed. But the merit and passion has to be theirs without meddling from parents (ahem).