Dearest parents: worriers and dreamers, all — do you ever wonder what your kid will be when it grows up? Do you have really high hopes, and are those hopes based in any part on reality or do they have anything to do with your own unrealized ambitions? If so, that’s okay. I’m just saying don’t put all your eggs in that ballerina basket. Or the professional sports star basket. Or the rocket-scientist basket. Because even if you are the kinda dad who will rundown/assault and batter the Easter Bunny to make sure your kids GET a basket, um…they might not get that one. For, behold –there are an awful lotta stops on the “What My Kid Will Be When It Grows Up” Continuum.
Looking back, I would say that my professional goals for my offspring were very modest, inasmuch as I had nothing particular in mind. I decided long ago that the best approach to this particular conundrum (besides brainwashing them from toddler-hood to believe that finishing school meant at least a bachelor’s degree) was to facilitate the exploration and development of their individual characters/values. “Really? You and your friends are going to set your “my life is the worst life ever” poetry to music and have your own band? Great idea! And you – you’ve decided that, in lieu of a career, you’re going to marry a CEO so you can lunch with your friends, bake cookies, and drive your one kid to soccer practice in your ginormous SUV every day? LOL! Okay! That sounds like it could really work out! Meanwhile, you might want to go ahead knock out those general study courses…just in case.”
Are your kids funny? If so, I predict that you can stop worrying right now ’cause they’re going to be okay, thanks to the very same thing that keeps polar opposites from becoming enemies; i.e., well-developed (and carefully cultivated) senses of humor. I first knew my own would be okay on that fateful elementary-school day that I found them rolling around the floor in tears from their discovery of “The dam man went to the dam to get some dam water.” They went on for hours. At first I tried (albeit half-heartedly) to put a stop to it. But when they started speculating about the different dam animals visiting the dam, I gave up, ‘cause that’s hilarious. But I digress.
The key to parental happiness in this arena is perspective. The way I see it, getting your kid to want to do/be anything is half the battle! Occupational satisfaction is directly proportionate to one’s belief in the purposefulness/meaningfulness of the work, and/or in one’s own value as a contributor – even if the only person one cares about contributing to is oneself. Parents should find reassurance in this perspective since almost anything their kid chooses to do with his/her life could conceivably fall within the happy medium of our continuum. I believe that there is honor in (almost) every legitimate occupation, because I believe that it says something about your character that you get up and go to work every day to provide – even if only for yourself, and even if only as a “means to an end” or to “make ends meet.”
I believe in the value and dignity of work. And in brainwashing kids into thinking “must go to college,” because while the key to their eventual occupational success is not necessarily guaranteed to be found in higher education, it can’t hurt to have them look for it there while they’re “trying to find themselves [or a marriageable CEO],” waiting to be discovered, and/or knocking out those general study courses…you know, just in case.