Pay attention. You are about to learn the finer points of what is arguably the single most important conversation you will ever have while attending a school of higher learning. That’s right, the day you tell your parents that you’re changing your major from Pre-Med to Contemporary Bowling Studies.
Actually, you changed your major two years ago. But since you’re about to graduate, you figure it might be a good time to let your folks in on it. Having them find out when you walk across the stage to accept your diploma is not a good idea. “Stephen Finch, receiving a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Bagel Studies.” Can you say cardiac arrest? Therefore I’m dedicating a few lines to helping you through this important process.
First of all, begin calling your parents immediately, just to say “hi.” They already know that if you’re calling, it’s bad news. They know that they will get off the phone and either have less money, less chance of holding a political office or one more reason to get “caller I.D.” So start laying the groundwork now. By the way, this is not the time to mention anything about the car “incident.” Save that for a subsequent conversation.
Besides just general schmoozing, you might want to drop some comment about the need for experts in your new chosen field of study.
“You know, Dad, I was thinkin’. Wouldn’t the world would be a much better place if we had more (lawn mower mechanics, movie critics, disc jockeys, spelunkers, drummers …)? I sure think so.” Hopefully, he won’t notice that you discreetly left neuro surgeons off the list, which as far as he is aware, is what you’ve been working diligently to become for several years.
After you’ve made a few preliminary calls, it’s time to make the Big One. Don’t be scared. The worst that can happen is your parents will disown you, cut you out of their will and possibly hire someone known only as “Fat Tony” to pay you a visit. Other than that, you’ll be just fine.
The best approach is to try to create worse case scenarios that could have happened, and then what actually has happened won’t seem so bad after all. For example:
“Mom! It’s me, Larry. Hypothetically, should I be concerned if my vision were to suddenly become blurry, my skin pigmentation were to take on a pasty gray color, and my hair were falling out? — Again, hypothetically.”
“Oh my gosh, what’s wrong!!!! Oh, my little baby!!! Don’t let my sweet baby die!!! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!”
“Mom, it’s okay. I’m fine. But it is a good reminder for us all how really terrible things could be, relatively speaking.”
Now you’ve set the hook. Time to real ’em in.
“The reason I’m calling is to tell you about this dream I had.” Don’t mention the fact that the dream took place during Calculus class. “In my dream I was on a cliff, overlooking the whole world, pondering my place in it. And it was at that moment I asked myself, in the larger scheme of things, how important is Marine Biology? So, after much soul searching, I’ve changed my major to Geriatric Water Sports.”
“Hello? Mom? Dad?”
You shouldn’t be discouraged by this response. It could simply mean that you’ve made them very proud, and they’re immediately calling friends and relatives to share the good news. What is more likely though, is that they each have had mild strokes and are trying to remember the number to 9-1-1. Nonetheless, the hard part is over, and you can rest easy.
Once enough time passes, say, two or three generations, everything should be fine. Sure, there will be those times when you wonder if you’ve made the right decision, like when you are digitally removed from family pictures, but you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you followed your own dream, just like they teach you in the movies.
Now that you’ve taken care of that little issue, you can get back to more important things, like figuring out the best way to explain to your parents how a grocery cart bumped into your car and caused $5,000 worth of engine damage …
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