Choosing your own race

Choosing your own race

Choices are bad. Choices drive you crazy. Choices give you anxiety. Big anxiety.

It’s choices that have been troubling us over the past few months. This coming academic session the children will step into their first Board-exam year. They had to make subject choices and helping them make that decision drove us all to distraction. If you’re wondering why I didn’t simply ask them, tell me, do you really think a 13-year-old is equipped to make a life-decision like this one?

To be fair, it is possible but only for a child who is sorted, who has clear likes and dislikes, a clear path ahead of him. But what of the one who hasn’t yet formed a picture of the path he wishes to tread but can do reasonably well at whatever he takes up? How does he choose?

We’ve been going back and forth over their options in an attempt at selecting the least stressful one while not closing any doors to them later in life. We’ve done career counselling and aptitude tests but in the end the decision is so much more than all of that.

It is tempting to stick to the (generally perceived) educational Holy Trinity of science-maths-computers. Every reasonably decent student does that. And yet I just wasn’t convinced. Part of me argued why a child should study stressful subjects he has no interest in just because he can? Wouldn’t it be better to allow him time to focus on what he truly enjoys? The other part of me wondered if it was too early to close doors by quitting even one of the elements of the Trinity.

Seriously, when it comes to decisions I’m Chidi. From The Good Place. Have you watched it? If you haven’t, suffice it to say that I find making decisions very very hard, specially when it comes to the children, even more when the decisions will have long-term implications on their careers and lives.

Anyhow, based on what they said, taking into account their likes and dislikes, their interest, their aptitude, their attitude, their capacity for hard work, also discounting peer pressure and societal norms and tempering all of that with doses of practicality, we have together made the choice.

Fingers crossed now.

The pressure on the children is incredible. And no matter how cool we are, how much we tell them that grades don’t matter, it doesn’t ring true given the the whole world’s obsession with them. During one long tearful conversation N said as much, ‘No matter what you say,’ she had said, ‘grades matter. Maybe not to you, but they matter to my teachers, to my friends and to everyone else. And so they have to matter to me.’

The race has become only too real. Already.

As parents our goal should be to keep our heads above water, to make sure our children make the correct choices, to ascertain that they don’t get overwhelmed, or give in to panic with this whole ‘It’s-our-first-boards-exam’ thing. That’s what I’m going to do.

We have to try our darndest to help our children stay focussed on their own individual races, rather than joining in the ones laid out by their schools, their peers, the society or even their own siblings.

32 Replies to “Choosing your own race”

  1. Making choices that have a long term impact on the lives of our children are undoubtedly difficult.
    And no matter how cool we try to stay on the grades front, we all know (the kids feel it better) they do matter.

    Choosing subjects in 9th grade and having back to back, board exams in the 9th and 10th standard sounds super stressful.

    Wishing you and the kids the very best in this important phase 🙂
    My Era recently put up this amazing post…How To Lose Weight By Thinking Like A Thin PersonMy Profile

  2. As a parent, it’s good of you to allow your children to make choices based on what they like. Many parents push their kids in a direction solely of their own choosing and the kids aren’t happy. Here’s hoping it works out for the best!
    Debbie D. recently put up this amazing post…CRETE: GREEK ODYSSEY PART XIMy Profile

  3. Gosh! I feel you. What did you all decide then? I was an ICSE product so long ago that I wonder how many things have changed? We picked subjects after 10th and were by then a bit clear on what we wanted. I am sure things are much harder now. Plus the race. Good luck to them and you!
    Parul recently put up this amazing post…Pink Trumpet BloomsMy Profile

    1. Thanks Parul. I am an ICSE product too which is why we opted for this board for the children. We didn’t have to choose subjects this early in our time. It’s good of course but harder too. I’ve had scores of people telling me that ICSE is a much harder Board an that we made a mistake putting the kids through this. In any case, it’s too late for that now.

  4. Making subject choices in 9th grade and such big as to choose between science and economics and then Maths with commercial studies (I am not aware of what is taught in this) should be a big task. For me, it was just choosing between Hindi and Sanskrit in 9th Std. and my mother prohibited me from opting from Sanskrit and study Hindi. I liked Sanskrit more and it was a scoring subject in 10th boards so I changed from Hindi to Sanskrit after my 1st term exams but after shedding bucketful of tears at home. This piece of my history is no comparison with your children’s situation. It must be relieving now that you all have made your decision.
    Anamika Agnihotri recently put up this amazing post…The Questions – Some easy, some tough #MondayMusingsMy Profile

    1. Commercial Studies is a simpler form of the MBA course Anamika. In any case, for better or worse, the decision has been made. Oh I loves Sanskrit too, it was such a percentage booster – that and Maths.

  5. Choices are a pain in the wrong place. I can only try to understand what you are going through but I can understand it on other levels. Food ordering for example. So many choices that you just prefer to cook instead of making a decision. Netfix, so many things to watch that I’d rather read than come up with a decision.

    I hope the twins make the best choice and excel at it. And yes, I definitely have FOBO too 🙁

  6. Sigh! I hear you and I hear them. While we try to be cool at home, the pressure is very real. I haven’t come across a single teacher who doesn’t care for grades. Even kids treat you differently of you don’t
    get good grades. Which decision is this you are making? Here we don’t have to choose a stream till 11th grade.

    1. ICSE offers options in grade nine – Economics/Science, Commercial Studies/Maths, Computer/Art/Physical Ed. Also for some Godforsaken reason they have Boards in Grade 9 and then again in Grade 10. Why would they do that? I’m so annoyed with the whole process.

  7. You re absolutely right. How can we make choices as a confused or even sorted teenager? I think it is most unfair that children have to choose. Often times people choose careers purely by accident whereas sometimes choices are made for them. Don’t hassle yourself about the choices your children make. eventually everything works out the way it was meant to be.

  8. Wow! I’m in exactly the same boat right now and much of the latter part of 2019 has had me going through the same roller coaster!! And I’m just like what you have described yourself as when it comes to making such decisions! Mine is not done yet. But glad that yours is done for now and hoping it all turns out right!! Hugs to you.

    1. It’ll be a whole new exercise in Grade 11 and I’m so dreading that. But for now, yeah, the children have settled on their preferences so all they need to do is put their heads down and study.

  9. Happy New Year, Tulika. A very important post. We always have someone in our family who is writing their first board exam. This year it’s my niece. I could see the pressure of performance on both the children and parents. It is true that each has to believe in their own choices and run their own race. It’ll dawn slowly on us, but it will surely come soon. All the best to both of them. However, from what I’ve noticed parents now understand the pressure and provide comfort to their kids. I appreciate that.
    Jayanthy G recently put up this amazing post…My Word of the Year 2020My Profile

    1. That’s right Jayanthi. Parents these days are becoming way more aware that children need to make the best choice for each of them. That’s a positive development. The larger society, however, still seems to be stuck in the science/maths rut.

  10. Aah! This such a challenging and stressful phase. I can relate to your situation completely. Some kids have such clear priorities at this stage. Recently, I met a kid who wants to get into Cinematography – Editing of Wild Life Films/ Series. I was stumped at his clarity of career choice.
    AG didn’t know what he wanted to do in class 10th, when the subjects had to be chosen. It was only in class 11, he decided what he wanted to pursue. We did SWOT analysis with him for various fields, his aptitude and interest. As parents we can just be facilitators and not influence their choices.
    Unlike our times, the options and opportunities today are unlimited even if the kids don’t opt for the Holy Trinity, so it’s a relief. Don’t worry, the kids will do well in their chosen fields. 
    Shilpa Garg recently put up this amazing post…9 Simple Ways to Read More Books This YearMy Profile

    1. I’m so happy for you Shilpa, that you’re through that stage. It’s the indecision that’s the worst bit. I envy parents who have kids with clear choices. Life’s so much easier.

  11. Everyone has their own preferences and timeline. Better to set goals for self than waste time competing with people whose priorities and interests are completely different.

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Such A Fun Age #BookReview #BookDiscussion

When Emira is wrongly accused of kidnapping her baby=sitting charge her relationship with the child’s mother takes a rather strange turn. A wonderfully layered book on race and class and privelege by Kiley Reid.