The other day a coworker was comparing her son and her niece who are both my age. She was thinking about the promise these cousins had shown as children and how different parenting styles had encouraged or prodded them into their current situations. She reflected on how much resistance the kids had offered along the way and any resentment lingered in their minds.

To round out her analysis she then asked how much prodding I got from my parents. Had they made me play sports or join clubs I didn’t want to or keep me from ones I wanted? Had they insisted I go to college? Had they said which school I should go to or what I should study?

I was happy to answer “No” to all her questions.

The only team sport I played in a league for was children’s soccer. I liked the game and my friends played so I asked to join. I enjoyed it for a while and then decided not to renew for third season. My mom was fine with that and asked why so I explained I was tired of my friend’s mother who screamed throughout the game.

My parents met at college but neither of them graduated from there (though my mother went back later to complete her degree and later still to get an MBA) and I made up my own mind to go to college. A few colleges sent me offers but I applied to only one school which accepted me and then gave me a full ride scholarship. I went in with a plan of what I wanted to study, found I didn’t care for that and switched. If at any point my parents didn’t agree with my plans they never vocalized them in front of me.

The one thing my mom told me I couldn’t do when I grow up was join the military. This came up when I came in from playing with my GI Joes in the backyard and said I wanted to join the army. She flatly told me that would not be happening. And she was right. I didn’t want to join the real army, I wanted to join GI Joe.

I haven’t joined GI Joe but my life has gone pretty well to date and I’m thankful my parents never pushed me into or kept me from any interest.

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