My bachelor’s degree earned 11 years ago is on display at my parents’ home, nearly always dust-free. The Bachelor of Arts in English was a real result of their faith. Advisors during my first semester in college counseled me to declare a major I was comfortable in and not one to attempt a “leg-up” in the job market. Having money, but feeling miserable, was a foolish pursuit, they said. What I had done for so long was excel in reading and writing, so with my temporary interest in medicine, I decided that “English Pre-Med” was a good track to start to send me towards medical school.
Too bad that med school daydream didn’t persist…I could have used the salary to pay off student loans.
I dropped my requisite sciences and maths applicable to that path and replaced them with classes under a writing minor. Spending many days and long evenings into the night struggling through analyses of works by Phyllis Wheatley and Walt Whitman and William Faulkner was worth it when I got to swim delightfully through William Shakespeare and Charlotte Bronte and R.M. Rilke. As an undergrad, I took a 300-level course on all works Shakespeare, then a 400-level course as a senior in Women, Gender, and Literature.
I ate that stuff up.
I composed more arguments and persuasive written discourse than I can remember. I took fiction writing with an instructor who had the most fabulous, biggest hair on campus. I elected courses on Grammar and African American Literature and Argumentation. I mastered the art of “fluffing up” a paper…sometimes, it worked…mostly, it didn’t. I strived for A’s in the courses to prove myself “a writer.” I was successful in that sense, I suppose, by following up my bachelor’s with a master’s degree in Professional Writing.
My parents never questioned my motivation or focus or ask what exactly did I want to do in life. That doesn’t mean that they didn’t wreck with concern late at night between the two of them. Instead, they bought t-shirts and car stickers prominently showcasing my colleges’ names. They cheered and cried during graduations. Years later, my mom proudly decorated my office when I was chosen to be an Associate Dean.
I was a grown woman. She insisted.
But the genesis of this kind of strong support, coupled with the hard and soft skills I acquired for my liberal arts degrees, are now ripened for my first-born, a 4-year-old preschooler who is beginning to come into his own little busy brain. My son tests my intelligence with counterintuition and so many questions day in and day out. As a mother, I feel that I am in the driver’s seat towards his enthusiastic educational pursuits, or lack thereof. It is part of my workload to ensure that he is garnered the slightest tolerance towards some type of solid knowledge base, even if it isn’t college-taught.
With that, I also hold myself accountable to promote three primary life credentials, crafts I secured while pursuing higher education, that I know will make him a better young man and a better human being in a society that needs them.
+ Speech development, including that in debate-dialogue, and advanced verbal and written communications. These are best to emphasize a healthy expression of Jrue’s feelings and ideas, which may promote inner confidence. I don’t want to raise a child who will argue for the sake of it; I want to encourage standing by an opinion and backing it with facts, but being accessible to differences. This is essential for professionalism in the global network.
+ Openness to “contrary.” Something I learned while composing my first arguments in undergrad was to “acknowledge the opposition,” an ideal that I ended up teaching my students years later. This has become integral to fairness since the look of our world is changing daily. I hope that my son will not be actively taught to notice contrasting skin hues and gender restrictions, as divergence creates hierarchy. This is not something that will come from home. It is unrealistic, however, to believe that he won’t return home with doubts or pain someday. But I plan to point him to what he knows to be true and not what I or my husband have grown with.
+ Reflective reading prowess and effective research skills. I wish to spur my son to find out answers on his own and to cultivate a hunger for logical information instead of listening to spew. Jrue already loves to read with mommy or daddy at night before bed; I have ambition to curve up from picture books to books with chapters and those with cultural allusions and traveling power. We’ll connect texts and discuss them over hot chocolate the way I did in writing groups long ago. Reading is a vessel to creative applications of knowledge gained.
Maybe I’ll pursue a doctorate degree later. We’ll see. Though, I’d love for my little boy to beat me to the M.D. or Ed.D. or Ph.D. first.