“Nevertheless, I’m taking Captain Solo and his friends. You can either profit by this or be destroyed. It’s your choice, but I warn you not to underestimate my power.” – Luke Skywalker, Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi
When Padawan Learner was just a wee little guy, wrapped snugly in his blankets, sleeping calmly and silently through the night (yes, I understand that many of you will now be compelled to hate me for that statement), I assumed that he would be a traditional scholar. A multiple degree-holding academic of the first order. He would love learning for its own sake and almost compulsively read through the local library system. When he was a two year old chipping golf balls in the front yard and chasing down soccer balls in the back, I assumed he would be a traditional scholar who rode into college with both academic and athletic scholarships. When he was a five year old kindergartener, bored by reading lesson because he already knew how to read, I assumed he would be a traditional scholar, sought after athlete, who also was accelerated through multiple grades.
A decade later, my son is not a traditional scholastic academic, is not fighting off athletic recruiters, and is not advanced for his years. He struggles with math (sorry to have shared that with you, kiddo), doesn’t much care for science (although physics is considered interesting enough), and couldn’t really care less about the humanities. Oh, the humanities! He hates to write, which is proof positive that he is Dad Windu’s child. He’s a strong, if not regular reader, given to fits and starts of recreational reading. Oh, and he’s not a stellar athlete either. Definitely athletic, and given to strange and frightening leaps and twists on the trampoline – 9.8 last weekend, thank you very much – but probably not collegiate level. Sound grim to you? I’d be more upset about it, if I didn’t know that he’s a pretty normal kid.
He’s got a serious girlfriend (just shoot me now) who seems nice enough, with enough family baggage to cause an appropriate amount of maternal concern. He knows that teen romances rarely last, but he’s interested in giving it a try. He wants to, maybe, go to college for video game design, but mostly he just wants to play them. He has an absolute passion for parkour that makes my stomach lurch, his hands raw, and his pants ripped. He isn’t very good at keeping track of his schedule or his stuff yet, but is learning that if you don’t pack a lunch for school you get pretty hungry in the afternoon. He likes to roam around the downtown area with his best friend who is probably going to move back to Texas this summer, so he’s scraping to spend time with her because he has already learned that moving away means you probably won’t have much contact after that. He’s learning to enjoy the moment and accepting the “seasonality” of most friendships.
He’s learning that it doesn’t matter what you say you want, if you don’t do anything about it. He’s learning that there’s a limit to what your parents are willing to take when it comes to attitude and behavior. He’s learning that consequences for poor chooses are, by their very nature, often unpleasant and decidedly un-fun. He’s learning that laundry doesn’t care for itself, clear skin doesn’t just happen, showers don’t magically sparkle, and that it’s easier to take care of things than to catch up on things.
He’s learning from others, too. A boy his age has taught him that being in the 98th percentile on a high stakes standardized test isn’t nearly as impressive when you’re also a self-centered jerk 98% of the time. He’s learning that some people have an easier time understanding certain things, but all the “smarts” in the world don’t mean a thing if you can’t be bothered to do the work. Conversely, he’s noticed that fighting for a solid C is better than someone else throwing away an easy A because they couldn’t be bothered to show up for class. He’s learned that some mistakes, especially relationship mistakes, can last a lifetime. He’s seen how long $45,000 in student loans takes to pay off, especially if you never graduate and have to work two jobs just to support yourself and your not-so-sexy debt. He doesn’t enjoy math, but he understands compound interest.
Ultimately, he’s recognizing that “intelligence” goes hand in hand with effort, just like “luck” goes fastest to the best prepared. He’s learning that no one can do the work for you, make you want something enough to fight for it, or set your path before you. These things – he’s learning – must come from within himself. He’s a bright one, that son of mine, and I know he will go just as far as he chooses to go.