I’ve always been mindful of my influence on my childrens’ education. I consider myself a good parent, have a great relationship with both of my sons and I hope that they think I am supportive and encouraging. For me though, it’s important that they don’t feel I was a ‘pushy parent’. Is this concern related to my own upbringing? Too right it is! I was pushed, yet my parents enabled me to achieve every inch of my potential, to gain a scholarship at 11 and later to train as a doctor. Surely that must be the definition of great parents? (And they were great parents.) If I don’t assist my own sons to reach their absolute potential academically, does that make me a bad parent?
My husband’s early life represents the polar opposite of my own. He achieved three A’s at A-level but hadn’t considered going to university. No one had told him it was an option. His school asked him what he’d like study if he went to university and remembering his deceased father’s wishes, he opted for Law (a rash, totally unsuitable and very instantaneous choice which inevitably led to his dropping out after one year). With A grades in French, Spanish and Italian it shouldn’t have been too difficult to guide him towards a suitable university course and yes, he resents the lack of support and guidance he experienced. Fortunately today he has his own successful company and has proven to be an amazingly good salesman.
So what about my boys’ futures? When I was their age straight As were the goal and I performed accordingly. My sons are bright and had I pushed them hard, they might also be straight A students. Without these grades it is unlikely that either will get into a top-tier university.
They are, however, happy, confident, sociable and polite all-rounders who enjoy their lives and we do support them with their school work and extra-curricular activities.
Max’s future is not a problem. Since he was eight he’s wanted to be a pilot. We’ve helped him investigate the various routes into this career and taken him to open days and exhibitions to further inform his choices.
Toby,14, is a different kettle of fish. His career options are numerous – without straight A’s. I found an on-line personality/career questionnaire which produced a list of career suggestions suitable for him, from barrister to chef.
It would be easy for me to have a preference and to influence his A-level choices and his career aspirations but perhaps the hardest thing to do is step back and allow him the freedom to choose for himself. I have realised that, except for vocational courses, the degree you opt for at 18 often has little influence on final life-career.
I’ll encourage him choose whatever excites or attracts him, to experiment and make choices and to keep an open mind about his future and I’ll be there to answer any questions and to support his choices.
One thing I am sure of is that I know a lot of happy people; some are successful and happy, some are less successful and happy, but I will feel I’ve failed him as a parent if he ends up unhappy – successful or otherwise.