As Jonah and his friends are entering into junior of high school. This is the year that will determine which college they attend, what kind of jobs they’ll have, whether they’ll have a cushy job at a law firm or whether they’ll be living in the basement in their 20s. Their whole future is boiling down to the next 12 months!
Of course, that’s not true. But that’s what everyone tells me. I’m particular fond of those conversations with other parents, where they subtly brag about their kids and poke to find out tidbits about Jonah. What colleges is he looking at? What honors classes is he in next year? Is he on the varsity cross country team? These comparisons — the weighing of the kids — is all very subtle, but it’s there.
Getting kids into the most competitive colleges requires a lot of behind-the-scenes work by the parents. And I’m doing it, too. I found an SAT program for Jonah and drove him to classes. I’m driving him to cross country practice every morning. Yes, the cross country season starts in July. I’m helping him stay organized to finish an online class. I helped him chase the driving teacher at the high school to schedule his driving lessons. He just turned 16 and he’s a boy, so he still needs this guidance. I think.
It is difficult to know when we should back off. Where is that line? When do you let the kid fuck up? And how do you back off, when every other parent isn’t. It’s a competitive arms race.
A friend of mine owns a small business in town. She says that a distressing number of parents come into her shop to line up a summer job for their teenagers. She says she never hires those kids.
Megan McArdle has a great column about this.
The upper stratum of the Trophy Kids really are going into college expecting to live in a sort of Nerf universe where nothing ever really hurts, and there’s always an adult to pick them up and put them back on track. And they’re coming out into the workforce expecting the same sort of personal concierge service from a world that, as I was myself dismayed to find 20 years ago, really doesn’t have time to care how they feel.
I know she’s right. She’s absolutely right. There’s total insanity around me.
Steve and I have agreed that we will hover a bit more, but when he goes to college, it’s done. We expect that he’ll maintain at least a B average. If he can’t do that, then he comes home and goes to a community college.
Jonah and I chatted on the long drives to SAT class this summer about everything from Skinner’s experiments to Bernie Sanders to ISIS. In between the running and the SAT class and the driving lessons, he’s actually had a bit of free time. He’s been spending his time on Reddit and on more obscure websites. He’s learned quite a bit of random information. It’s all self-directed and amazing.
From one of the websites, he learned about the sensitive plant. He nursed a bunch from seeds, and they are now proudly potted on his desk. They keep him company as he surfs the web. It’s funny, but of all his accomplishments, I’m most proud of that damn plant.
UPDATE: Frank Bruni is talking about this, too. Also has a bunch of links to recent books on this topic.