Recently my mother told me a quote that resonated with her. She spent her career as a high school guidance counselor. The quote was from a coach she’d worked with. He said, “Un-coachable kids grow up to be unemployable adults.” Having spent thirty years dealing with teenagers she could definitely relate. But she seemed to miss the irony that she was telling me this as we sat watching my son screw around at his gymnastics class. She had her head turned, talking to me as I watched my son dangle from the parallel bars while the rest of the class was doing handstands.
I remember another little kid that didn’t pay attention at gymnastics. A kid that got yelled at by coaches to stop screwing around. A kid whose mother often said of her, “She will most likely become the dictator of a small country.” A kid whose kindergarten report card read, “She took some chairs out into a hallway and tried to start her own class.”
That kid was me.
And yes, I started a mutiny in kindergarten.
I’m a mother fucking boss lady.
Figuratively and literally.
When my son was one we learned about a charter school in our school district. It’s a public school, but it’s run like a private school, complete with uniforms and strict academic enrichment programs even in the summer. My husband (the product of a private NYC boy’s prep school) agreed we should put our baby on the waitlist immediately. I knew nothing about the school but I knew I wanted every possible option for our son’s education.
My son is now four, and the kindergarten talk has already begun amongst his friends’ parents. Depending on which school Oz goes to he’ll probably start kindergarten next fall. And so at our recent preschool parent/teacher conference the conversation was all about where he should go next year. We were informed that they don’t believe his personality would be a good fit for the strict charter school. He doesn’t conform well to structure. Or as his teacher put it, “He’s smart, a little engineer, but when he builds something he refuses to take it apart and put it away. He won’t let other kids play with the materials,” she explained as a slow smile crept across my face.
This is a problem we’ve recently encountered at home. He builds what we like to call “art installations.” Then I spend the next five days or so attempting not to disrupt the hexagon built out of foam pirate swords, or the tower of plastic skeleton bones interspersed with Legos. These “installations” are usually in my living room or a busy hallway.
Hearing that he was doing this at school should have made me concerned.
It didn’t. I felt proud.
As his teacher spoke I was having a flashback to a pre-meet/last chance gymnastics practice in middle school. The other girls got into an argument over who was next to practice their floor routine. Meanwhile I just kept rewinding my music and hogging the floor to run through my routine again and again. When one of them finally realized and called me out on it, I replied something to the effect of, “Hey, you can practice or you can keep running your mouth. You’re wasting everyone’s time.”
I’ve always been efficient as hell, even at twelve.
I have no use for standing around talking about what to do next. “Go! Go! Go!” has always been my work mantra. Lunch breaks are for suckers.
Our boy has inherited the best and worst of us.
He has leadership ability.
“Leadership ability” is a polite term teachers use to describe a kid that is a total pain in the ass. I smiled when his teacher said, “He has leadership skills for sure.”
“Yes, we know. That’s why he’s in preschool.” I replied, still smiling.
But the real reason he’s in preschool is that preschool is where we learn social skills. You know, like letting someone else play with the blocks when you’re done. Sure, what you built might be way better than whatever half-assed, claptrap, piece of shit tower the next kid’s going to build, but that doesn’t mean you should stop him from trying. Basically, preschool is just the place where we learn how not to be a dick to other people. Which is pretty damn important if you ask me. Like maybe the most important life skill.
Don’t be a dick.
But what I really want to say here is that these “leadership skills” are a good thing. And the idea that un-coachable kids become unemployable adults doesn’t sit well with me. My husband and I were always good employees, great actually. So damn great that we always thought we were doing the job better than everyone else. We didn’t want anyone to help us build the tower, or take down what we built, or use the materials to build their own claptrap piece of shit.
We could always do it better, even better than the boss.
That’s why we both eventually ended up successfully self-employed. The majority of millionaires in this country are self-employed. That’s a fact.
No one ever got rich working for someone else.
Of course we’ll continue to work with Oz on sharing, and you know, not being a dick to other kids. We do a lot of talking about listening to his coach and following instructions. We want him to be kind to people and to know that sometimes following direction is actually in his best interest.
And when it comes to growing up and having a career I really just want him to find something he finds fufilling. But if I’m being completely honest, I’d have to say that when my boy grows up, I don’t want him to be employed.
I want him to employ.