I heard a wonderfully timeless story recently about a conversation between a father and son. The son had left high school with his his high school diploma and had got a job locally in a shop and was making some money and saving it. Sounds good right? Well he actually saved $USD10,000 in the two years of leaving school and with that money bought a piece of land near his home town. All before the age of 20. Incredible.
But his father kept saying that your time as a ‘shop-assistant’ is not going to last forever. Sooner or later you will have to leave home, pay rent, buy your own food and all that $10,000 you saved before will be used on actually living as a responsible ‘adult’. (Up until then he had been living at home). The father didn’t mind having him at home at that time because well, he still was in that ‘transition period’ from being a teenager to being an adult.
Step now to the next stage. The father however was becoming increasingly perplexed about how to get his son to the next level of adulthood, which he believed was going to set him up for a far greater future. This was of course – getting the son to get himself a tertiary education. The son responded that he understood that that was important and that only when he was ‘ready’ would he move onto that kind of thinking. He summed up his situation like this. “Dad we are all like eggs, every egg must hatch, but all eggs hatch at different times, and I haven’t hatched yet’.
I heard this story and was taken back on two fronts. Firstly, how poetic his son was to so eloquently put his situation to his father, but also I couldn’t work out whether he was truly telling the truth about how he felt, or if he had mastered the art of advanced adult manipulation to appease his father so his father would get off his back.
It sounded to me like a typical 20 year old young man who felt the world was at his feet, that he just had to make the most of whatever came his way to date. He wanted to make sure that his father could see that he had some wisdom on life, but he wanted his father to not push him if he isn’t ready for something.
The father also being from the previous generation where your tertiary education was everything was still in some ways stuck in the world of thinking a degree will get you everywhere. However, the son was stuck in the millennium world of a degree is only one way to get somewhere, and life is for exploration and discovery. The battle will forever be entwined with these two.
However, this is not a new phenomenon. But in todays fast paced world the question is more prevalent than ever. The issue being, should a father push his son into tertiary education when the son doesn’t feel he is ready for it, because time is short, or should the father let the son find out for himself and move forward when he is mature enough to see how the world works on a bigger scale but in the process may lose out on precious time.
Being ready for something versus being mature enough to take on something is an interesting dilemma. Readiness is all about now and your state of mind now all bound up with a confidence and a willingness, whereas maturity is more about being able to handle the risk and manage the consequences whether they be good or bad because you have experienced enough to know that the world may not always work out your way, and so you need to have a very balanced contingency plan for which ever outcome.
Both readiness and maturity I can see are not things that can be forced, they come with time, however readiness may come before maturity because a willingness to have a go at something and face the consequences is the very thing that makes someone go and do something and eventually learn from it and so mature from it. It’s literally the chicken and egg situation….meaning one cannot exist without the other, but the question is which comes first.
This father and son story I thought was interesting because the son wanted to show his maturity by sharing his wisdom about life and readiness, but the father knew that sometimes decisions need to be made early on about education before it is too late and your world gets bound up with adult financial responsibilities, and you have no ‘earning power’ to manage them.
The gap today in decision making on education is more pronounced than ever and more contentious than ever as the world we live in today is not the world that the son’s father grew up in. The question is therefore, does a parent’s wisdom on life in this day and age still have relevance to the millennial when dealing with education.
Key questions to think about:
- what role should a parent play in their child’s adult education?
- at what age is the turning point for parents to disengage in parental control over decision making for education for their adult children?
- what is a ‘normal’ parental expectation for their child’s tertiary education in today’s world?
Something to think about.