Am I Doing it Right? (A peek behind the choices we make.)
My eldest is entering her senior year and going on college tours. Recently she joined her friend whose dad offered to bring her with (thank you, C!). They came back with mixed reviews. His daughter found the college to be so-so, drab, uninspired. My daughter came back raving about the campus, the academics, the possibilities. I asked C what he thought the differences were in our daughters that would have them see the same institution in such a different light. That’s easy, he laughed, we were split up for orientation. Our guide was a smart but boring young lady, your daughter’s guide was a charismatic, great-looking guy.
In this era of positive thinking, personal responsibility and anything is possible, we’re conditioned to believe that we are in charge of our choices. That we are fully aware of what we want and make our choices consciously. That we have all of the information at hand when we are making our choices, including what may be driving them. Which means that the poor choices we make are our own to own up to, apologize for and carry the shame for (as needed). After all, it was our choice to make.
Oftentimes we have no idea what drives our choices. Like our toddlers choosing between pink or green juice boxes, not realizing that the choice of an organic, low-sugar beverage has already been made for them. Or the painstaking process we put into choosing our soulmates, only to find out that our subconscious minds have, in fact, chosen our parents for us.
Kids don’t face the consequence of making the wrong choice. They might not like the flavor of their selected beverage and remember that for next time. But they’re not dealing with a constant threat of am-I-doing-this-right? that accompanies parenthood like an unwanted chaperone at the prom.
The consequences of making the wrong choices for our kids are dire.
Or are they? Is it possible that most of the choices we make for our kids are no more consequential than a juice box flavor? That sending our kids to the wrong college (high school, middle school, elementary, pre-school — NYC-you’re-doing-it-wrong-choices start early on) will not impact them nearly as much as what we teach them about making choices, messing up, forgiving themselves and moving on?
Could the capacity to forgive ourselves for making a bad choice be more powerful than making the right choice?
Maybe. Of course, that doesn’t stop me from wanting my kids to have the best juice boxes, colleges and everything else to choose from. But it does take the edge off the anxiety involved in providing them with those options and guiding them through their decision-making process. And reminds me that at all times, I too, have made the best choice I was capable of making at that moment. Regardless of the charismatic, great-looking guy by my side. (Or because of him, who knows?)