Our son is an only child. We apologize, son. It’s just how things unfolded.

One challenge of being an only child is that you’re always in the spotlight—both for commendations and corrections. There’s never a respite. While a child might assume they’re getting a break, in reality, parents are just recharging for another round of guidance and accountability.

Sibling Dreams

A friend once remarked that our son probably wishes he had a sibling who didn’t excel as he does. This hypothetical sibling might divert some of the attention, offering our son some relief. I can’t deny that we often raise the bar for him—be it in academics or any other criteria we deem significant at the moment.

His junior year has been a whirlwind—demanding AP science and math classes, ACTs, daily crew practice, learning to drive, and the looming college decisions. The pressure is relentless, and our well-intentioned questions probably don’t help.

The College Planning Phenomenon

On a whim, we enlisted a “college planning” service. Everyone else seemed to be doing it, so why shouldn’t we? Their pitch? Help the student identify the ideal college and devise a strategy for admission. What they omit is the additional burden they place on the student—deciding on a major, career, and institution all at once. And could they hurry up and make those life-altering choices at 16?

During a visit, a counselor asked about his senior year course load, suggesting even more coursework and inquiring about summer internships. I saw my son’s visible stress and began to question our choices.

When I was his age, I wasn’t facing such colossal decisions. And honestly, how many 16-year-olds are equipped to map out their entire future? The uncomfortable truth is that perhaps we were projecting our desires onto him, equating his college admission to our parenting success.

The Role of Serendipity

When I reflect on my wife’s and my experiences, I realize serendipity often played a more significant role than meticulous planning.

My wife, initially set on becoming a ballerina at Cal Poly, pivoted to accounting when she recognized the impracticality of her initial choice. Today, she thrives as a forensic accountant—a transition made not by design, but by fortunate accident.

I landed my first job due to a linguistic misunderstanding; my interviewer believed I had attended Harvard instead of Harbor Junior College. This unintentional mishap set the trajectory for my long-standing sales career.

In Conclusion

The overarching lesson? Let go. Embrace the moment. Shower your child with love and trust in their decisions. They might need a touch of serendipity, not a meticulously charted course.

If you opt for a college prep service, recognize that it might be more for your peace of mind than for your child’s actual benefit. After all, they have their entire youth ahead of them.

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