You want your kids to be successful. You want them to be ambitious. You want them to fulfill the potential you see in them. Every parent does. You have this idea of where you think you ought to go… and then of course, they have other ideas.
John Adams Sr. wanted nothing but for his son to go to college. John Adams wanted to do anything but go to school. He often skipped to go fishing or hunting or to fly his kite. He didn’t like his teachers. He didn’t think he was learning anything useful. He had no interest in furthering his education.
So when he declared that he wanted to be a farmer, his father took him down to the salt marsh to cut thatch and wade through muck, showing him what that work would actually be like. The next day, John went back to school. But soon enough Adams was struggling. “I don’t like my schoolmaster,” he told his father. “He is so negligent and cross that I can never learn anything under him.” The next day, Adams’ father enrolled him in the private school down the road. There, under a schoolmaster named Joseph Marsh, Adams made a dramatic turn. He was studying. He was reading. He saved up to buy Cicero’s Orations. In less than a year, the fifteen-year-old was pronounced “fitted for college.” The following fall, he was enrolled at Harvard.
When we talked to Austin Kleon over at Daily Stoic, he talked about how our job as parents is to put our kids in environments in which they can learn. Our job is to create or find the space for them to become who they are. Our job is to work with them to find their lane. That environment may not be the first school we drop them into. It might take several tries, it might take patience, it might take some experimentation. Our ideas might be proven right… or proven wrong. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that we help them realize who they are meant to be.
There’s an infinite number of lanes possible for every person in this world. Your job is to help them find theirs.