Thursday, April 23, 2009

Sometimes Parents (And Others) Just Don't Understand

I was reading this article in the Los Angeles Times about Sharron Pearson. She's a high school student who applied for - and was accepted to - an Oxford University summer program. She needs money to cover some of her expenses by the way, but it's the beginning of this story that caught my attention: 
When Crenshaw High School junior Sharron Pearson asked for permission to apply for a scholarship to attend a summer program at Oxford University, her father's response was blunt: "No. We can't afford it."

Sharron, 17, applied anyway. "Then I went to work trying to persuade my parents to reconsider," she recalled. "I just knew they'd come around and see things my way."
So Ms. Pearson has established a level of academic excellence but more than that she is actively seeking out opportunities for herself. What I find unsettling is the attitude of those closest to her who would have her make fear-based decisions and who have limited vision. I'm certain her parents love her but they do a great disservice to her by hindering her growth.

This is a situation where the haters/obstructionists/naysayers would come out to discourage someone trying to achieve something and sigh with relief when they stumble. For what does it say about them when someone they know and love comes from the same home/life circumstances but is able to achieve more? Nothing is being handed to her and yet I can almost guarantee someone in her circle is bound to be jealous and resentful.

So why is it that some children have to fight their own family to not just avoid being a lower-economic statistic but thriving in life? Children should not be cookie cutter images of their parents. We've all heard stories of kids that have been thrown out of their homes for being gay or facing disapproval for dating interracially. How can academic achievement be a point of contention? 

I can recall wanting to move to NYC after I graduated high school to attend college. It had been something I'd clearly stated as my intention for years and I got nothing but grief about it. I heard all of the scare tactics about how dangerous it was. I'd led a somewhat sheltered life up until then and not traveled anywhere. I was quite stifled in fact and had to go with $50 against my mother's wishes. It was my life to live though and I just couldn't understand why having dreams and setting out to accomplish them was so threatening.

Just because other people have gotten stuck in a rut or settled into a comfort zone doesn't mean it's okay to hold other people back and discourage them. Those of us who want to take risks must prepare ourselves for the obstacles that life presents - especially when it comes from people we may know and love. I know I've personally struggled with wanting approval from others for what are my life choices and how it has hindered me from achieving all that I can. That time is over. It's like a never-ending cycle, like being a rat on a spinning wheel. We must never apologize for wanting to have a fulfilling existence. Life is too short to take time and opportunities for granted.
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Unknown said...

great idea.
i will have my children apply to Oxford... starting with my oldest..

and if i have to:

1. i will wash cars
2. i will mow lawns
3. i will walk dogs
4. take a 2nd job at micky d's..

but they going...

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Borther OMi: You are too funny! You have a blog so you could do a post asking for donations!

Get Togetha said...

What a wonderfully truthful post. People always assume that parents want the best for their children; but how do they determine what "best" means. Parents are human beings first which means they operate upon whatever narrow expectations they have about life in general.

Not all parents know how to handle above average success; and for countless reasons. I pray that young lady makes a way for herself because sometimes you truly can't depend on family to help you fulfill your dreams.

Again...great post!

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Get Togetha: Thanks so much for the kind words! I think it helps us to look at all angles seeing the big picture and thinking critically.

Theo said...

I agree that parents should encourage their children to follow their dreams, but there is not a lot of information about the family here-what if they really couldn't afford it? Some of my friends' dads have had to work 80+ hours a week just to feed, house and clothe their family. Not everyone has the education/class currency to get well-paying jobs. What if he was a single parent with other children as well? Should the other kids have to suffer for her to go to a summer program? I do think that parents should invest in every opportunity possible for their children, but we live in a country with vast (and growing) salary divide where education is not always free. I would not immediately place blame on this child's father without having more information.

Faith at Acts of Faith Blog said...

Welcome Theo: The point wasn't that they couldn't afford it, it was that they hadn't even considered TRYING and discouraged her from even applying to Oxford. I am certain with the amount of press Ms. Pearson has received that she will in fact be able to attend. She had to not only apply and beat out all the students but she had to convince her parents that a dream they didn't SEE READILY AVAILABLE was possible. This is a serious malady amongst many Black people who tell themselves they can't do something, blame everything on racism and never push past GO.

Unknown said...

I forgot to mention when we were going to send our daughter to this big time private school in Virginia which we could NOT afford, we did get a nice scholarship from the Urban League. It's funny because the folks there told us they have all kinds of money that no one applies for.