An open letter to the parents of the Class of 2013
06/12/2013 06:07PM ● Published by ACL
Rarely, if ever, is a graduation speech filled with such platitudes of inspiration that it is remembered. Ask any 2013 graduate of Unionville, Oxford, Kennett or Avon Grove High Schools to recall much of what was said at their commencement, and there is a very strong likelihood that their powers of recollection may yield a word or two, or a quote from Benjamin Franklin or John F. Kennedy or Oprah Winfrey, but to most, what some valedictorian genius tells them will be pure, vapid mush by the time the ceremony is over and they finally get out of that robe. Only the random few are anxious to take their place at the table of a New Generation. To ask an 18-year-old to define what his or her idea of Success means is a terribly wasted exercise, one usually meant to appease you and not them. In reality, most new high school graduates are resigned to the fact that, despite all of your hard work, they're about to embark upon a life of stumbling, accidental growth, one that doesn't promise anything. It is nearly guaranteed that for every fast-track kid on his or her way up some preordained ladder of success, there will be ten for whom the world will open up slowly.
Unless you've given birth to the next Mark Zuckerberg or LeBron James or even the valedictorian genius, resign yourselves to the fact that in the coming years, there is a surefire,100 percent chance that your kid will fail spectacularly on his or her journey to whatever your dreams of them consist of. Let them; let them really muck it up. Don't intervene. If they call you from a college dormitory room this Fall, or from a military barracks or from a backpacking trip to Europe and they ask you to solve their problems for them – to do the same intervening you've done for them their whole lives – don't, as much as you want to. Your involvement will accomplish little more than the equivalent of foot-stomping a small fire out.
The time for the tooth fairy is over, as well as the parables, rhetoric and cliches found in graduation speeches, either. They've crossed the podium into a world for which you will now serve as a concerned bystander. He or she needs to begin to fail in amazing fashion now, as part of their own orchestration and grand design, and by doing so, pave his or her own future, which will lead to his or her very own definition of Success, inevitably.