AP NEWS

Boomer Grandpa: There is no timetable of when to bloom

May 17, 2019

One of the most awe-inspiring sights of my life was my first glimpse at Mount Rainier. My wife and I had arrived in western Washington in April 1979. We had our 6-month-old daughter in tow. A few days after we arrived, we came around a corner in our vehicle and there was the mountain.

I stopped. We got out and marveled at this magnificent sight. Two years later, in 1981, we moved back to Minnesota. We never returned to Washington — until last week.

On our arrival in Seattle, there it was, the exact same phenomenal view, now 40 years later. The mountain is so majestic, so incredible that the sight of it almost seems like computer generated imagery.

My wife and I were very young when we drove to Washington state. We were anxious. At that time I was finally getting a handle on being a responsible adult. I had been a husband for a few years, was a new dad and now we moved cross-country for my job.

My path was unspectacular, as my high school and college grades were barely satisfactory. I have no memory if I took the SAT or ACT test back in the day, but if I did, I bet my score was lousy.

Several days ago my wife was told by our grandson that he is now a member of the National Honor Society at his high school. He is a reserved young man and mentioned it only in passing. Needless to say, we are proud.

Recently my view on scholastic achievement has been slightly altered. While on this mini-vacation, I finished reading a book, “Late Bloomers: The Power of Patience in a World Obsessed with Early Achievement,” by Richard Karlgaard. It was an interesting read.

The book digs into how our society pushes students to achieve early and excel in school testing. Young students are expected also to stand out in activities in order to further sharpen the resume for college applications and to quickly jump onto a ladder of success.

But here’s a point I want to make. I hope both my grandkids and their parents do not become obsessed with high GPAs. In the book, Karlgaard says this obsession to succeed causes stress, anxiety and depression in our youth today.

No number on a test will determine our life

I’m guessing a number of teachers today feel that students are over-tested. Tests taken at a moment in time are not an evaluator of how they will proceed in life.

In the past, I’ve mentioned to my grandkids that they should work hard, do their homework and take summer classes. What? Take summer classes? Why did I need to say that? I certainly didn’t take summer classes. If I did, I would have crashed and burned being in a classroom on a summer day instead of on a baseball field. Kids need time to be kids. They need to step outside and goof off.

Great grades and achievements early in your life are great and we can be proud, but there’s more to the secret formula of life.

Every student is different. They learn, grow, mature and are driven and motivated at different moments. Some kids struggle with test-taking. Karlgaard even discusses how our brains mature — or in my case, why it took longer.

A teacher told me that she’s had students who made very little progress for a couple of years and then all of a sudden soar past their peers in reading and math.

In his book, Karlgaard gave some remarkable examples of late bloomers who struggled in school yet became successful. I don’t know about you, but as a teenager I had no idea what I was going to do with my life.

My advice for fellow boomer grandparents is to not push those grandkids. They are not our monkeys. Just encourage them to keep learning and stand by to give advice if asked. There are many paths to take and they will find one — some sooner than others.

More to our story — at any age

I feel that Karlgaard’s book also addresses opportunities for baby boomers to re-bloom, in a sense. At any point in our lives, we can excel. At any age there can be more to our story. There is no timetable for success, and some of us can even chase after that passion that we didn’t have time for earlier.

I believe there is no longer the “old school” retirement. We live longer, and with life’s expenses it’s hard to get by sitting in a rocking chair.

In the book, Karlgaard said you can always learn, change and move on from an outdated version of yourself. On our return to the Pacific Northwest, it appeared the mountain has not changed. But I certainly have. Friends and acquaintances from my younger days would have doubled over with laughter if I told them that someday I would be a writer, a daily and weekly columnist.

Now I am provided with this opportunity to write stories of remarkable boomers, love, life, family, faith, grandkids and even mountains. I’m a late bloomer and proud of it. Are you a late bloomer?