Last week, David Karp, the founder of Tumblr, sold his company to Yahoo for $1.1 billion. As much as I was in awe of this 26-year-old man's accomplishment, I could not help but wonder about his mother. Who was the woman that raised her son and encouraged him to drop out of high school and enter the workforce?
What was his mother's thinking? How did she have the guts that led her to ask her son if he wanted to skip the rest of high school? What did she know about the education system that led her to believe that pursuing his passion for computer programming as an intern was better than finishing high school and going to an elite college? I have discovered some of the answers in the interviews that I have read about the boy genius.
Barbara Ackerman taught science at a private school in New York City. In her heart, she knew he was not thriving in high school. He was passionate about coding but even at a school like Bronx High School of Science, he was bored. She was lucky to be able to homeschool him. She also had great connections that helped him land the internship at Federator Studios and Urban Baby that changed his life.
Who knows a child better than their parents? A mother or father knows if their child is bored with school and needs more of a challenge. Some mothers know when their child needs more attention from their teachers. If a child has dyslexia or is a computer genius, mothers are usually able to identify their child's needs before doctors or teachers. So many children, however, never get the help they need even when their parents are able to identify a problem.
In the mommy wars that continue in the 21st century, moms get most of the blame if their child drops out of school. According to The New York Times, 857 children drop out of high school every hour. How do mothers know whether their child will be just another college drop out or the next Steve Jobs?
Karp's success is very rare. I wish I could interview Barbara Ackerman. I would like to ask her so many questions about how she was brave enough to acknowledge that her child would be better off dropping out of high school and pursuing his passion. Her success as a parent was neither defined by what high school or college her child attended. She had to be impervious to the negative comments that I am sure she received from other people. I wonder how else she helped her son become so successful. It is clear she did not take any advice from Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom.
Not all children have to follow a traditional path to be successful. It is our responsibility as parents to be attentive to the needs of our children in order to help them achieve their dreams.