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Planning your child’s future with vigor

Categories: This is Supposed to Be Fun

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After more than two years of non-custodial parenting, I am finally seeing just how much influence I have over my children’s lives. Isn’t that odd? But I have traded in the day-to-day influence — what clothes to wear to school that day, what’s for lunch and dinner, and did you do your homework today? — for the Big Picture stuff. This is epic. Life-changing. And the oddest thing of all about it is that it takes no Herculean effort. We just talk regularly, I listen and give opinions when they’re warranted, and over time I see change.

Nathaniel, 14, is a freshman in high school. When he and his sister were out visiting me in August, we stopped by a certain free-flowing college to check out the vibe. “Can you see yourself here?” I asked him. “What do you think?”

“It’s okay,” he said, employing a typical teen laconicism. But I could feel the wheels turning.

A month later I had an epiphany about Europe. He should do a year as an exchange student! I could see all the ways in which this would create Total Awesome Win for him, stretching him and creating space for him to grow into who he is. I mentioned it casually on the phone, trying to turn the volume down on my excitement at having found the Perfect Thing. “Europe?” he asked. “That’s funny, I was just thinking about that.”

O-M-G. We are totally on the same page. Suddenly I could see how his next five years or so would unfold. It was all so clear. “Okay, I have your life figured out,” I told him. And he walked right into the picture I painted. A summer here with me. A year in Europe. Blasting through high school. College in a structure-your-own-degree program. Living life where and how he wants.

I’ve done it for his sister and brother as well. Serena, 10: she can get her MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Iowa. Eric, 7: he’ll live in a group home and keep everyone laughing.

Is that what we do as parents? Create worlds for our kids to step into — or not — and then hold the door open for them so that they can? It seems so easy when you put it that way. I can totally relax on SAT scores now.

What about you? What things do you do to plan your child’s future?

[photo: thetorpedodog, flickr]

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One comment so far...

  • I don’t see myself as planning my kids’ future. More as planning their present so doors will be open to them in their future.

    For me, the hardest thing to figure out is how much I should “help” them versus letting them figure things out for themselves, including college finances. I’m blessed to have the ability to help them, but is it really best for them? Or is this just something I’ll figure out as we go? What if the answer is different for each kid?

    One of the things I want to do when my kids are a bit older is to take long summer trips to different places where we’ll study the local history, biology, geology, etc. But that means I’ll have to be able to get time off work to do this, so that really means planning “my” future. I am less than fully confident that I’ll succeed at this.

    SKL  |  November 10th, 2010 at 10:02 pm