When Parents are Full of S***

The two oldest of our three kids will be heading to NC State in a few weeks, our oldest for his sophomore year (transferring from UNC Charlotte) and our middle child for her freshman year. Our son has already changed his major from business to a biology-chemistry double major. Our daughter is in First Year College and as of right now is thinking of majoring in engineering, but who knows what degree she'll end up with? That's as it should be since one of the core benefits of a college education is the opportunity to try different things on until you find something that fits, if you're lucky.

A couple of weeks ago we were on vacation and during dinner my daughter mentioned that she might want to major in Italian (I think it was Italian), and I made the brilliant statement that she shouldn't major in a language because you can always study a language independently by taking a course later. That statement was followed by something like, "You should study something practical that, if you wanted, you could practice in any language you might happen to learn." My mother, who was also at the dinner, gave me the look that is normally reserved for people for whom she feels sorry, and drolly asked if that's why I majored in English. Ouch.

I later told my daughter that her Dad had a moment where he was indeed full of s*** and that she should study whatever she is truly interested in, something that she can be passionate about.  Sharing this particular tale of parental malpractice was inspired by this letter written to Ted Turner by his father when young Ted informed the old man that he wanted to major in the Classics at Brown:

There is no question but this type of useless information will distinguish you, set you apart from the doers of the world. If I leave you enough money, you can retire to an ivory tower, and contemplate for the rest of your days the influence that the hieroglyphics of prehistoric man had upon the writings of William Faulkner. Incidentally, he was a contemporary of mine in Mississippi. We speak the same language—whores, sluts, strong words, and strong deeds.

It isn't really important what I think. It's important what you wish to do with your life. I just wish I could feel that the influence of those oddball professors and the ivory towers were developing you into the kind of a man we can both be proud of. I am quite sure that we both will be pleased and delighted when I introduce you to some friend of mine and say, "This is my son. He speaks Greek."

Note to my children: if I ever write or say anything remotely like this please tell me I'm full of s*** and feel free to not visit me in the home if I live long enough to get there.

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