Monday, June 2, 2008

Who then should decide?

The number one most stressful part about moving to Barnesville is the situation with Sophie. She will be a senior in high school this fall and wants to stay here and finish up her schooling at Wilde Lake. We'd like her to come with us to Barnesville and experience a Quaker school.

A lovely family from our meeting has offered to take Sophie for the year, as they are becoming empty nesters. We are overwhelmed, and very grateful for their generosity. We couldn't find better people to trust our child with. Others in the meeting have reached out to Sophie to offer hospitality and rides in a way that is truly kind and thoughtful.

However, we still think she'd benefit greatly from a year at Olney Friends School. So we are at an impasse. Should she come or should she stay? Who decides?

Some say that, at 17, Sophie knows Sophie best and should be allowed to make the decision. A friend argued that point-of-view vehemently to me last night at a wine bar. On the hand, old-fashioned as it might seem, I believe Roger and I have a perspective, based on years of life experience (and perhaps some suffering) such that we can see things that Sophie can not, because we're older and wiser. From that perspective, I suspect that if she goes to Olney, it will broaden her and mature her, and 10 years from now ... or 20, she will thank us for making her do it.

However, friends also say, and I think they're right, that a year away from her family, coping with life here, would also mature her. They say I am trying to make her into a person like me and not letting her be herself. Am I? I have pondered that question. I know she is a different person from me, with different strengths and interests. I also know that any parent naturally wants to share with their child what they have found to be good things in life.

When it comes to Quakerism, Sophie enjoys both our Quaker meeting and Quaker summer camp in her own right. She actively likes to come to meeting, I think because it is a wonderful, supportive community. I never have to force her to go. I think (hope) she would experience that on a day-to-day basis at Olney.

Sometimes I feel like an overbearing parent. However, I think it's not so much that I'm overbearing as that times have changed. At the Quaker writing group last night, Rosemary talked about her youth, when adolescents simply did what their parents told them to do, because that's the way it was. Now, we're much more child-centered.

So who decides? What would you do? I really would like to know. The bottom line is, I want to make the decision that's best for Sophie, not just for this year, but for years down the road. I have her interests at heart. And I find myself torn: Should we let Sophie decide, on the basis that "Sophie knows Sophie best" or should we be the ones to decide, on the basis of our greater life experience?

1 comment:

Bill Samuel said...

The age-old question of growing into adulthood just what degree of making their own decisions is best? She is still a minor, recent studies show that a person's brain at 17 is not fully mature, and she is still dependent on her parents.

If it were a case of you wanting her to something that she felt immoral, it would seem clearly wrong to force that. But this is a matter of preference, not morality.

I doubt she can really understand what it would mean for her to switch schools and spend her senior year at Olney. The truth is that you and Roger can't really understand it either, but you are probably in a position to have a better perspective on it than Sophie does.

This is really a case where there isn't a clearcut right answer. My advice is a lot of prayer - ideally for all 3 of you. I believe the right answer for this situation can emerge, but it won't be easy.

But whatever the ultimate outcome, don't sweat it. This probably seems more momentous that it actually is, both for you and Sophie. After all, it's really a choice between two essentially good options. When you've concluded what to do, don't be second guessing yourself over the next year. Remember how much grace God gives you, and give yourselves some.