Mark was a wealthy banker who had always insisted on his son, Thomas, doing things his way and following in his father’s footsteps. However, after discovering Thomas had dropped out of college, he would soon learn how flawed his perspective was.
It was the day after Thomas’ graduation, and his wealthy, stern, no-nonsense father, Mark, and caring mother, Ruth, couldn’t have been any prouder of him. He was a bright, hardworking student, graduating with honors.
His parents threw him a small dinner in celebration of his recent achievement. Thomas and his parents sat at the dinner table as Mark said grace:
“Lord, thank you for the food we are about to eat, and bless the hands that made it. We thank you for bringing us together to celebrate our son’s celebration. May you continue to prosper his way. Amen. Let’s dig in.”
“Amen,” Ruth and Thomas added.
“I can’t believe my boy’s finally finished high school,” Ruth exclaimed excitedly.
“Finished with honors, too!” Mark said proudly. “So, how are those applications for college going?” Mark asked.
“They’re okay. I applied to a couple universities in the city and…” Thomas started, suddenly being cut off by his father’s scoffing.
“Nonsense. You’re going to study upstate, just like your old man. At a top university,” Mark explained.
“Actually, dad… The university has a pretty decent IT and Game Development program, and I…” Thomas started, stopping at the sound of Mark’s cutlery falling to his plate as he raised his hands in frustration.
“Oh, not this again! I’m not having this conversation with you again, Thomas,” Mark snapped.
“Mark, please…” Ruth said, trying to reprimand her husband.
“No, Ruth! He is going to study Finance. Just as we’d discussed. And that’s the end of that!” Mark barked. Ruth gave her son an apologetic glance as they proceeded to eat the rest of their dinner in silence.
Later that night, Ruth eyed her husband begrudgingly as he read a book in bed. “Love, we need to talk,” she finally said.
“About?” Mark asked, turning to her.
“Thomas. I think we should hear him out,” Ruth suggested.
“Hear him out about what?” Mark asked nonchalantly.
“You know exactly about what. College! Have you ever considered that you’re imposing your own ambitions on him and not taking into account what he actually wants to do?” Ruth asked.
“All I have to take into account is that I’m his father, and you two will have to trust that I have his best interest at heart and know what’s good for him,” Mark affirmed.
“Oh, and what about me?” Ruth asked, folding her arms in bewilderment.
“What about you, Ruth? Can’t you just trust my decision?” Mark retorted.
“Just trust your decision?” she asked, bemused. “That’s my son, too. And I am every bit invested in his future as you are… Does my opinion mean nothing to you?” Ruth snapped.
“Oh, no! We’re not doing that! You know I value your opinion, Ruth. You’re my wife. But this is for the best,” Mark replied, trying to keep his cool.
“For who, Mark? This is the best for who?” Ruth continued.
“Alright, that’s it! Listen, the boy is going upstate, just like I did. And he will study Finance, just like I did,” Mark snapped, frustrated.
“Oh, is that so?” Ruth retorted.
“Yes, it is. I pay for the education, housing, food, and the very clothes on your backs. So I decide where he will study, and that’s the end of the conversation!” Mark concluded, turning back to his book.
She pulled the blanket dramatically, irked by her husband’s crudeness. Mark didn’t flinch an inch, casually continuing to read.
A few months passed, and Thomas was finally going off to college. As usual, his father had gotten his way. Thomas was going off to the same college Mark had gone to, even though Thomas was accepted to his college of choice.
Ruth approached Thomas’ room as he was packing. She stood at his door and watched as her child sadly pulled out his acceptance letter for his chosen college and stared at it momentarily with deep longing. He then crumpled it into a ball and threw it into the bin disheartened.
“Cheer up, my baby,” Ruth said, stepping into the room. “You should be excited. It’s your first day of college. This is big!” Ruth said, sitting on the bed.
“My first day at a college I never wanted to go to in the first place,” Thomas said dejectedly, sitting beside his mother.
“I know, my boy. But you’ll meet new friends and learn to love your course. A college like that is perfect for someone with your brilliance,” Ruth said.
“Is that you talking or dad?” Thomas asked with a side-eye.
Ruth responded with a sigh, “I know it may seem like it, but your dad only wants what’s best for you,” Ruth explained.
“I’m not completely sure you believe that mom,” Thomas said. “But it’s okay. One day I’ll be able to make a little money and finally make my own choices. Then both of us will have a little independence,” Thomas explained.
“Oh, my precious little boy,” Ruth said, gently kissing her son on the forehead. “Growing up so fast. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. You just look after yourself, you hear?” Ruth softly. Thomas nodded in agreement then his mother hugged him warmly.
Six months later, Mark received a call from one of his friends, Jason, a lecturer at the college. He was ecstatic because he had been waiting to hear from him about how Thomas was doing.
“Hi, Jason. So any word on how my boy’s doing down there? Knowing him, the little bugger is probably giving everyone a run for their money over there,” Mark said with a chuckle.
“That’s actually why I called Mark. I’ve looked for your son’s grades in the database, and it seems that he took his documents from the college and left several months back,” Jason replied.
“What do you mean he left?” Mark asked in confusion.
“He dropped out, Mark,” Jason said plainly.
Mark could not believe what he was hearing. All that money he had to pay for tuition, and his son had dropped out without telling him. Not that that would have made it any better. Infuriated, Mark immediately called his son.
“Hi, dad,” Thomas said.
“Thomas, where are you?” Mark asked.
“I’m at university,” Thomas said.
“Don’t lie to me, Thomas!” Mark barked.
“What do you me—” Thomas started before his father cut in.
“I know you dropped out! Pack your things and send me your address. I’m coming to pick you up now!” Mark snapped.
“I’m sorry, dad. I can’t do that. I still need a little time,” Thomas answered before hanging up.
Mark immediately went to his wife and asked for her phone. “What’s wrong, Mark?” a confused Ruth asked, sensing his urgency.
“Nothing… I… I just need to reach Thomas. He isn’t taking my calls,” Mark said, concealing the truth. He didn’t want to alarm his wife or have to face the inevitable “I told you so.”
“That’s enough! Enough, Thomas!! Get your stuff and get in the car!” Mark yelled, turning red. Thomas had had enough at this point.
“I’m not going anywhere. I don’t need your consent to stay,” Thomas said, picking up the bottle and showing him the energy drink label. “It’s not beer. It’s energy drinks because I work 20 hours a day.”
“Work? Are you—” Mark started, but Ruth immediately cut him off.
“Shut up, Mark! You’ve been screaming at us for as long as I can remember. Just zip it! Coming in here and screaming like you own the place. What’s wrong with you?” Ruth barked. There was complete silence. “Now, let’s hear what our son has to say,” Ruth concluded.
Mark was lost for words. It had been ages since his wife had spoken to him like that. He said nothing, humbly taking a seat on one of the camp chairs in the garage.
Thomas finally explained to his parents everything that had transpired over the last several months. It turned out that, in line with his father’s wishes, Thomas had gone to study at the college for the first month. He picked up video game development as an elective and found a group of like-minded friends.
They tried to run several games, wrote codes, and gradually grew to understand the process. They eventually banded together to create their own game but got stalled because of a lack of funds. So, they started looking for an investor to fund them.
After a while, they finally found a man willing to give them the funds for a beta version. Thomas and his time were given a strict deadline to make the beta version to secure the funding, and they decided to take the risk.
He, Dan, and some other friends all dropped out of university and moved into Dan’s garage. They had been working tirelessly to complete the beta version, and after presenting it to the investor a week ago, they are now waiting on his confirmation for the funding.
Mark was defeated by what he had heard. On the one hand, he was upset that his son had left the university he had always envisioned his son going to. On the other hand, he was impressed at his tenacity and innovation.
Once his son had told them everything, Mark simply said, “You’ll find me in the car, Ruth,” and left without another word. Ruth gave her son a warm hug, told him she was proud of him and that he should keep her posted everything with the funding, then followed her husband out.
A few days later, Thomas and his team finally heard back from the investor. Unfortunately, they were not able to get the full funding they were hoping for.
After all their sacrifices, they had reached a dead end. Thomas was devastated and immediately reached out to his mother to tell her the sad news.
Mark came across Ruth in the kitchen as she was on the phone with Thomas and decided to eavesdrop, hiding behind the kitchen wall. His heart was broken as he heard his son crying over the phone.
“I really thought this was it, mom. I gave it my all. I sacrificed everything. I even lied to you and dad… I… I just… I really thought I could pull it off, you know?! I just wanted to make you proud of me and show you and dad I had more to give… I’m such an idiot!” Thomas cried.
“I’m so sorry. I only wanted the best for you.”
“Don’t say that, Thomas. You’re anything but an idiot. You’re brilliant, just like I’ve always told you. And your father and I are extremely proud of you. It takes courage to take a leap of faith like you did. It’ll work out, trust me. You just keep praying and working towards your goal,” Ruth said, trying to be strong for her child.
“I can’t anymore, mom. It’s like every time I take a step forward, I slip three steps back. I’m drained. I… I don’t think I have anything left in me,” Thomas cried.
Mark couldn’t take anymore. Hearing his child in such pain and despair. He fell to the floor in tears behind the wall. Later that day, as Thomas lay in bed in Dan’s garage, there was a knock on the door.
“Uhm… Come in,” Thomas said.
Dan opened the door, and Mark stepped in, closing the door behind him. “Hi, son,” he said softly.
“Hi, dad,” Thomas replied. “Look, if you’re here to tell me how much of a mess I’ve made, this isn’t the right…” Thomas started as Mark chimed in.
“No. There’ll be none of that today, I promise. I just came to check on you and hopefully have a chat,” Mark said, joining Thomas on the bed.
“I just wanted to apologize for everything, Thomas. I have been trying to drill my ambitions into you and relive my journey through you, forgetting you had one of your own. I’m so sorry. I only wanted the best for you, Thomas,” Mark confessed, pausing to hold back his tears.
“You’re a very talented, intelligent young man, Thomas. And so I’m proud of you, son,” Mark concluded, shedding a tear.
“Thanks, dad. You don’t know how much that means to me,” Thomas said, tearing up as they hugged.
“Also, if you’ll allow me… I’d like to invest the rest of the money for your game,” Mark said.
“What? Are you serious?” Thomas asked, pulling back ecstatically.
“Yes. If you’ll allow me,” Mark said.
“Of course!” Thomas said, hugging his dad tighter this time.
Thomas chuckled, shaking his father’s hand. “Business partners. I like the sound of that,” Thomas concluded with a hopeful smile.
Mark added the necessary amount to his son’s project, and he finally got his company off the ground. The company quickly became successful. Before they knew it, Thomas and his father not only had a thriving business relationship, but they had managed to mend their relationship as father and son as well.
What can we learn from this story?
Being a good guide to your children does not mean you should invalidate their opinions. Mark insisted on his own way, disregarding his child’s hopes and dreams. If Thomas hadn’t taken the leap of faith he did, he might have lived his whole life, never seeing his own dreams come to life.
Parents should try to invest and learn about their children’s strengths and dreams. Mark never gave Thomas a chance to pave his way, and in the process, he denied himself the opportunity to learn about his child’s desires and talents.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.