My daughter Laura came home the other night; another all-too-brief visit from college. She was frustrated at a poor grade she received on an English paper, and crumpled under a blanket on the couch admitting "college is a lot harder than I thought it would be".
In my effort to make her feel better, I began my "momisms", which, I just can't help, and I start to share some of my own transition issues from my first year at college. I tell her that it's normal, that lots of kids have a really tough time their first year, and so on. And then my friend Elizabeth walks into the room.
Elizabeth is 10- plus years younger than me, smart, beautiful; isn't married and does not have kids. She is is an amazingly talented woman, especially in the area of writing, and this is Laura's area of interest. She told Laura her struggles in school; how she didn't get to walk the stage, had to take a class over the summer, then get her diploma. How she started and then dropped out of college more than once because it was so difficult. How she came out of it, survived and learned valuable lessons which of course she couldn't see at the time, most of which had nothing to do with the classes she took.
The following day I was on the air with my partner Scott, who also doesn't have kids of his own, but who often talks about his friend's children who mean a lot to him. Scott is a man who shares his common sense tidbits of wisdom in an easy to digest manner every day (probably due to years of training on brevity in communication due to his choice of career). Many of those "Scott-isms" click with me an hour or maybe a day or two later.
As I told him about the conversation that took place the night before he told me he sometimes feels his thoughts and opinions when shared with a young person don't have as much credibility with parents because he doesn't have kids of his own. I admitted that it was clear to me today that parents, including me, can be cocky in their assumption that their advice is the best vehicle for their kids, when in fact, life lessons lessons can be learned from so many people at every age, no matter how old we get.
In fact, we are doing our kids more of a favor when we step back sometimes and let someone else do the talking; allowing them to be exposed to people of all ages, races, religions, socio-economic levels and political beliefs. Exposure, discussion and learning through other's successes and failures is so valuable.
Both of my girls are in college, and I' thinking I need to chill out about actual grades. College is a learning experience for many things...the least of which is the actual classes you take. The real life lessons that will help them become independent, productive, discerning adults comes from living away from home, self-discipline, compromising through roommate issues, frustrations and yes, failing papers.
Disappointment is character-building. We learn more from our failures than our successes. And interestingly, the older I get, the more I realize how much I still have to learn.