Thursday, 5 June 2008


My eldest son and I attended a talk last night. It was supposed to make his options for further study clearer for him, but we both came away feeling bamboozled. He goes into Year 11 next year and Years 11 and 12 are the ones that set you up for wherever you want to go after school. But what was described as an easy process, looked pretty complicated to me.

I remember being called into the Principal’s office when I chose my Year 11 subjects. He called me ‘Katherine’ over the PA system, so I knew I was in big trouble. You see, both my older sisters had done Maths, Physics and Chemistry and came at the top of their years. I’d had the audacity to choose, English, French, German, History, Art, Biology (because you had to do a science) and Maths 1 (the easy one). How dare I be so lazy? I tried to explain that I didn’t like Maths or Chemistry and though I enjoyed Physics, I wasn’t good at it. I loved languages and Art and History. He wasn’t having any of it and made me go to all the classes I hadn’t chosen to ‘sit in’ and see what I’d be missing. Fortunately, Dad got a job in another town very soon afterwards and the new school had no preconceived ideas about me. They didn’t teach German, so I had to do just six subjects, but I had no complaints about that. It just meant I had to get better marks because Art wasn’t considered a full subject in the final tally.

Then, when I'd finished school and chose what I wanted to do afterwards, it was my mother who tore up the form and told me to choose something sensible. I’d put Art as my first choice. No way. No daughter of hers was going to become a weirdo! I’d put down Teaching as a second preference, but she said I had ‘too much intelligence to be a teacher’(!!!). So, I ended up with an Arts degree in Archaeology. But then what did I do? Went off to Teacher’s College anyway. And then became an illustrator. That was all right though. I’d given Mum her dream – five kids, all with degrees. I understand her in hindsight. Both she and Dad had missed the chance to get qualifications for one reason or another. So she was living her dreams through us.

That’s why I’m finding it hard now. M is set on becoming a computer games software writer – or whatever the fancy name for that is. All my motherly bones shout ‘No! No son of mine is becoming a nerd!’ But I’m living proof that no matter what I think, he’ll come back to what he wants to do, so why stop him? I just want him to see that there’s so much more he could do with his programming skills. Aaagh! It’s hard being a mother!


Mary Witzl said...

I can certainly sympathize. My two sisters, older and younger, were good at math. I'm still awful at it. My mother, very good at math herself, had to fight to get me into the dullards' math class, but thank God she did. I was the only kid in school doing math for dummies and honors' English.

Although I agree with you that it is wrong to keep kids from doing what they are genuinely interested in doing, I do believe that there is a point where you have to step in. Our eldest is bright, but she decided she wanted to do a beauty therapy course at the local college when she was fifteen. This would have meant over an hour of commuting every day, and my husband and I happened to know that the others doing this course were a rough, coarse bunch. We nixed it, telling our daughter that if she still wanted to do it at age 18, we'd pay for it then. She took physics and chemistry instead, and did well at both. Now she tells us she's glad we stopped her.

Kate said...

To be honest, Mary, I'm glad my mother wouldn't let me go to art college. I went there to check it out when I was at University and she was right - they were a lot of weirdos! But it is hard, sometimes, to know what to do. M has said he wants to write games since he was 7 years old, so it's not a passing whim. I was just hoping something 'better' might grab his attention.

Luc2 said...

Kate, one of the beauties of life (but also the scary part) is that we never know where life takes us, or our children. Ultimately, we and they have to find our own path.

To an extent, I followed my father's wishes and went to law school. I don't regret it often, but I've my share of "what if" moments (I wanted to study English).

As for M, you won't know where his path may lead him. One of our clients was a computer games programmer, who at one point made a change, and applied his knowledge to create a machine that helps people with serious illnesses recover with the help of a three dimensional game. A friend of mine is now developing a game, which helps young people to improve riding skills and anticipating on the road, which could help decrease traffic injuries significantly.

You provided M solid basics. Now it's up to him to apply them in his own way and own niche. Judging by what I know of you, he'll do splendid!

Kate said...

Thanks, Luc. You've made me feel much better. One of my qualms has been that computer games are only time-wasting entertainment and don't help society much. But going off what you say, there can be a beneficial outcome. I'll stop worrying (for now!).

Luc2 said...

You're a writer and an illustrator. I think that falls under entertainment, doesn't it?

And a long long time ago, many people thought that books were "time-wasting entertainment and don't help society much." ;-)

Many from the younger generation of writers get their inspiration from Role Playing Games etc. Hang out a bit at the teen section of CC, and you'll see.

Kate said...

Why don't you just say it, Luc - I'm an old fogey!!! ;)

Luc2 said...

If only I would know what a "fogey" is...

Kate said...

"Fogey - a very old-fashioned or conservative person."
There you are Luc, your new English word for the day!

Angela said...

My cousin became a software games programmer and works on many of the NFL/NHL/MBA sports games you see out there for PCs. He loves the work and finds it very satisfying, and is the farthest thing from 'computer basement rat' as you can imagine. :-)

I'm not in this boat just yet, so who knows how I might feel in a few years? Right now, all I want for my kids is a job that they enjoy, something that makes them feel happy and fufilled. :-)

How Publishing Really Works said...

I used to work in games publishing and I'd encourage him into the arena--so long as he's going to be good at the job.

It's a fantastic, creative environment to work in, where talent and innovation are rewarded very well indeed.

There's a lot of money in the business, too. Worth considering!


Kate said...

He'd definitely be good at it, Jane. I downloaded some gamemaking software when he was seven. After two hours of playing with it, I felt proud to have worked out how to keep a bouncing ball inside a box. After two hours, HE had a 3 level game of pacman worked out!
(And he quite likes the idea of being as rich as Bill Gates!)