Opportunity. Where does it come from? Who is responsible for it? I think this question can be answered with numerous and varying suggestions. Some would be right and some would be wrong. Some would be obvious and some far-reaching. But I think the most obvious answer is the one we know best, or perhaps don’t know best.
I will provide one answer for these questions: parents.
Parents are the primary provider of opportunity to their children. It doesn’t matter the education or job provision. Opportunity doesn’t have to be wrapped in gold or displayed within the power of politics. Opportunity simply needs to be encouraged. For those who cannot afford, for whatever reason, to create opportunity, it is enough to encourage the fact that opportunity is available.
You may be wondering exactly what I mean. The fact is encouragement is sometimes all one needs to succeed. I said sometimes, not all times.
Remember what I said in my last post about America and opportunity. America is an actuality as well as an idea. Opportunity is also an idea. Placing the idea of opportunity, the availability of opportunity, the inevitable possibility of opportunity into a child’s mind lays out a believable path to success. Believing that, one, you have the ability, and that, two, the opportunity will arise, has pushed countless men and women into the waiting arms of success.
HOW PARENTS SPEAK OPPORTUNITY
For so many, this idea must start where the voice is loudest: the home. Parents are appointed with a type of decree from on high. This decree is to show a child how to make their way through the world, and part of that is studying the child, understanding their habits, interests, strengths, and weaknesses, and cultivating from there. Parenting is not about letting a child, that doesn’t even understand the dangers of walking across the street, find their own path. Parents are to be guides, not spectators.
When parents are silent to a wondering child or absent to a wandering child, then they have missed the mark and have pushed the great responsibility of explaining life onto another, where the responsibility is not supposed to fall.
Not all parents are rich, educated, or even prepared to be parents, but this doesn’t excuse the nature of what many parents have adopted: a lack of concern. Parents aren’t allowed to be self-absorbed, although too many are.
EDUCATING AT HOME
Of course I voiced my concern in my prior post on the problems of public education, and I will try to avoid going so far into that. What I do want to point out is how important it is for education to continue at home. Our minds absorb so much information when we are young that placing a child day-in and day-out in front of a screen, regardless if it is on a wall or in their hands, stifles their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual progress.
I recall listening to the Jim Rome Show on the radio a long time ago. He was replaying a sound bite of a homeschooled girl winning the National Spelling Bee. He was derogatory about the idea of homeschooling and about parents who “think they can teach their kids better.” Well, she did win the spelling bee championship, so that sort of speaks for itself. But the fact of the matter is that many parents can teach their kids way better than the public school system. I am a big supporter of homeschooling. The argument that kids won’t be prepared socially is, as my grandmother would say, “hog wash.” Unless your kid’s classroom is like the serial killer’s hole in the ground on “Silence of the Lambs”, then they will have plenty of opportunity to interact with other humans. I won’t go into all those possibilities, but rural living isn’t as famous as it was a hundred years ago.
IT’S NOT ABOUT A COLLEGE EDUCATION
I understand the argument that some parents can’t homeschool their kids for a plethora of reasons. But my argument isn’t about homeschooling. Not at all. It is about creating opportunity and about continuing education in the home. Children should be learning even after they come home from school. It doesn’t have to be math or science or literature. It could be a craft, like plumbing or baking. Even boatbuilding would be nice.
I think parents shoot themselves short and excuse themselves from the table of education due to the fact that they may not have a college degree, or they just don’t know a lot. Honestly, even if you have a fifth grade education, there is nothing in this world that is stopping you from learning while you teach. Sitting your child down for some good ole Dr. Seuss is great practice for your own mind, and especially for the mind of a developing child.
It isn’t always about saying, “Follow me, I know the way”; sometimes all you can say is “Let’s walk this together.” It’s about showing your child that you are there for them. Providing a constant encouraging word. Doing the little things, even if its buying old books at a used bookstore or showing your child how to change a car’s tire or oil. Those are big steps toward providing them with a sense that the world does hold opportunities and that if no one will believe in them, you will.
Parents, I plead with you now, to please take back your position in the family. You are not invisible and dispensable creatures. It is not just your family that you will be leading, but you will be leading your community, your city, your state, and even your nation. We need strong parents who care deeply about their children and about their ability to perceive opportunity, understand opportunity, and embrace opportunity.