A few weeks ago, my little sister came to our house for her Spring Break. She is just sixteen, and a sophomore in highschool. My parents were sending her to us under the auspices that we would visit colleges and help her figure out where she wants to go to school when she graduates. Did anyone miss the part about her being a sophomore? In case you did, I'll put it in different terms: 10th grade.
So, in my talks with her leading up to the visit, I said we would just tell them we visited colleges, and they wouldn't be the wiser. My dad, particularly, continued to harp on the subject, so I finally acquiesced. We would visit some schools.
When she got here, though, I couldn't do it. Saturday came and went. Then Sunday and Monday. Tuesday morning I pulled together everything I could and we visited UT, Concordia, and Texas State, all in a span of about 2 and a half hours (an hour of that was the drive back and forth from TX St). By visited, I mean we drove through and talked about the relative merits and drawbacks of very small, medium-sized, and large schools. And then we were done. I promised no more lapses in our refusing to visit schools.
We did everything else, though, and by the end of the week I was completely worn out. Mostly I tried to get her to understand that her opinions and desires and strengths are valid, even if they don't match Dad's expectations of her. I don't think I succeeded, but I laid some groundwork for some further conversations. It's pretty difficult to undo in one week the damage my dad does all year.
I know he has the best intentions, he just doesn't always push his agenda in the best way possible. I know they are also older now than when I was in highschool -- more ready than ever to finally be empty-nesters. I try to remind them it's not her fault that she was born so much later in the family's life cycle, but I know she still gets that vibe. How could any kid not get that vibe.
Regardless, when I dropped her off at the airport to head back home, I called my dad. I told him we hadn't figured anything out during the week, and that I considered it a personal victory that she said she is now more confused than she was when she came to our house. I was a bit stern with him, reminding him that she has 18 months before she even has to apply to places, much less decide where to go or what to major in. (I left out the part where I told her it was okay if she didn't go to college, too. We have to work up to that possibility.) I told him to let her focus on trying to stay in that top 10 percent of her class, and not worry about selecting her career (and husband, and the date she'll have children, etc.) until much later.
Why would I ever need to have children of my own? I have my little sisters (the other one has her own set of dramatics). And more than that, I have my dad to keep me busy.
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