Yesterday, a friend said something I just couldn’t believe. He told me the best advice he’d ever given his daughter was that she should lower her expectations. Lower expectations?
“I sent Lynne to the best private high school in town. I wanted only the best. It cost me a quarter-million dollars. After graduation, she went to one of those elite eastern colleges. I vividly remember the day we took her to enroll. The look. The atmosphere. The way people “were.” It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t her. She seemed excited, but I was concerned. However, I bit my lip; didn’t say a word. What did I know? I was only her dad.
14 months later at 2:00 in the morning, I woke with a start. It was the phone. What could be wrong? Was she all right? It was my Lynne, sobbing and sad. She said ‘Dad, please don’t be mad, but I want to come home. I hate this place. It’s been over a year. I don’t know a soul. I’m so lonely. I have no friends. I don’t fit in.
I was there the next day–you would be too. On the drive home I learned more from my girl than I ever taught her. ‘Dad,’ she said, ‘I’m so sorry. I tried to be what was expected of me; I’m so sorry, it just wasn’t me.’
My heart bled big tears as she went on. Pressure from an upscale high school forced her that way. They taught her literature and higher math, but failed when it came to guiding her down the right path. The school knew it would look good with Ivy League grads. It promoted a culture that furthered its goal. My little girl was just trying to please.
That’s when I spoke these unusual words. ‘Lynne, sometimes you need to lower your expectations. You aim low over here to climb high over there. You want to shoot high, but only in the right sky.”
We talked about how kids must feel incredible pressure–from schools, parents and friends to excel in what worked well for us, but may not for them. As dads, we’ve got to be careful. It’s easy to say, ‘shoot high.’ It’s a lot harder to help them find the right sky.