Pushin' Too Hard? (with apologies to the Seeds)
By Julia Figueras ~ Posted Tue, 03/09/2010 - 6:20pm
Every Sunday, Democrat and Chronicle music maven Jeff Spevak posts an entry to his blog called "I read the New York Times so you don't have to," highlighting some stories of interest. This week, he discussed 2 obituaries. One has haunted me.That obituary, for violinist Patricia Travers, is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/arts/music/07travers.html?...
There was something in this story that I found infinitely sad, and very distressing. As a board member of the Rochester Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, and the mom of two teenage girls, I began to reflect on our kids, and the expectations we have for them. Are we pushing too hard? Do we have unattainable expectations for them?
Our older daughter is now a senior, and 3 acceptance letters sit on our dining room table. Three for three, all with scholarship. She is an oboist in the RPYO, and a darned fine one at that. Her little sister plays the bassoon and dances. Right out of the box, they understood the reality: we cannot afford their college educations. To get any higher education, they would have to develop a talent that cound win fans and earn scholarship dollars. Play an instrument. Kick a ball. Volunteer. Dance. Take advanced courses. So they play, and dance, and work, and take Advanced Placement courses--all for love, but also with an eye toward shaping a strong resume.
Our daughter's schools range from $15,000 to $32,000. We opted out of the $53,000 college, trying to be realistic about debt load and an impending college career for her younger sister. The cost is breathtaking to me. And the girls know it's breathtaking. When I was growing up, the price tag for college was not this dear. Back then, I knew that I wanted to be the Next Great Actress. I also knew that I could change my mind and find a new path without breaking the bank. I felt that I had room to grow and experiment. I could take Japanese Drama just because I wanted to, and not because I had to. I had time. Scholarships were for the brilliant, those in need, or both. Now everyone needs a scholarship, and the clock ticks so much faster. Everyone needs a hook. The playing field has become downright mountainous.
When I read Patricia Travers' obituary, I cringed a little. How many brilliant children have been pushed too far, too fast? And what about our own, wonderful children? Are they dancing, and playing sports, and practicing instruments, and taking AP exams for a resume, or for love? We have created a paradigm that some have dubbed the Lake Wobegon Effect, where all of our children are above average. Perhaps we should be satisfied with nuturing good, responsible, kind citizens, and let the chips fall where they may.