Friday, April 2, 2010

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Do you wonder what your child will grow up to be; what job will be landed; or, what career, profession, or business will be established?

When I was a little girl growing up in the 1960s, it was expected that an educated black girl child would grow up to be a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. When asked what I wanted to be, the slightest hesitation in answering would prompt the person to say, “Oh, I’ll bet you’re going to be a teacher!”

I actually had no idea what I’d do, and received no specific guidance, so I took the recommended shorthand class in ninth grade…just in case.

Fortunately, I stumbled upon the data processing class that ultimately led to a computer programming career…not that there’s anything wrong with being a secretary.

So now I’m a mother. I can look back on those days and try to improve the process for my children. Living in a community where a large percentage of the adults went to college, and their children are going to college, the discussion of the children’s future is a major conversation.

What activities are they involved in?
What camps are they attending this summer?
Where are they volunteering?
What are their grade point averages?
What colleges are they looking at?
How’d they do on the SAT?
Will the private school challenge them more?
Will they take IB or AP classes?
Should we take in the foreign exchange student?

And so on…

These are the parents striving for the best possible education, getting the kids involved in many activities, and exposing them to culture, with hopes of getting them into the best colleges that will open more doors of opportunity for employment; in addition to the pride that will be felt by all.

At the other end of the spectrum, is the parent who wants a good education for the child, but leans more towards letting the child decide what the future job will be. When engaged in this conversation, I hear more of a concern for contentment that doesn’t necessarily require a certain college or “the big bucks” after college.

I might send my son to community college first.
My child just takes standard classes and I’m okay with that. She’s not in that advanced league.
I just want him to be happy and fulfilled.

And there’s the sports parent:

He can’t afford any more injuries; we need that scholarship.
Sports are so good for kids. My kids must play a sport.

Of course, I’m generalizing. I can pull from all these areas when guiding my children.

But how much should we guide? I know of a family who has a son at a very reputable college who has become involved in the plight of the Haitians. They’ve been successful at educating him and getting him into "the good college," but will he follow what may be a philanthropic “calling” on his life instead of going to work in a corporation?

I know of another family who loves living a simple life, with lots of kids and surrounded by horses and chickens. Will any of the kids in that family grow up and wish Mom and Dad had prepared them more for life in the corporation by putting more emphasis on grades, colleges, and culture?

During this time of brainwashing my children…oops, did I say that…I meant nurturing and preparing them, I instill in them the advantages of a good education, but also, the need to do something that they will be passionate about, as well as providing them with the lifestyle they’d like to have. I tell them if they want to live as we are living now, a low to average income may not be enough. At this time, I don’t know if either of the children will want a large house, or conversely, not care about square footage at all. I just hope they’ll be wise and modest in progressing towards their goals, and that they'll live a good life.

I don’t know what my kids will be when they grow up. Based on their current interests, if they were stepping into the adult world right now, one would be an artist, one would be a musician, and the other would be working in advertising, probably writing TV commercials.

What I do know – is that there should be a place for all children to be educated and trained for the many skills required - including parenting - to keep the world moving forward.

How much input and influence should a parent have in directing the course of their child’s future?


Unknown said...

I have seen many of those parents that you described. I knew a family where the dad was a doctor and the mom was an RN and it was a given that their son was going to be a doctor as well. He took every AP course imaginable and even went to foreign language school on Saturdays AND played sports while maintaining a high gpa. When it came time to get scholarship offers, he didn't qualify even with a 4.3. His parents were upset. All those years of wanting him to go to chosen universities and staying up late to drill him on exams....and it did no good.

In my opinion, I think they were a bit too pushy and driven with their son. I don't even know if they took time to really listen to what it is he wanted to do and not what he was being forced to do.

I believe that the kids should be challenged and motivated in the areas that they seem interested and passionate about. (Not saying that they want to be a professional video game player.) Just that if you see that your child has the ability and desire to really help people...steer him/her towards a field where that would be ideal.

I just don't believe in placing huge expectations on a child and then they barely get through high school from being so stressed out.

Menopausal New Mom said...

Thought-provoking post today and I admit, I sometimes wonder what my 4 year old will want to be when she grows up. You and I are so similar, my mother's dream for me was to be a stewardess, there were no flight attendants in those days. Education after high school wasn't even considered or discussed so I did like you. took the shorthand class (gregg) and prepared to be some businessman's secretary. I started off in admin and over the course of a 20 + year long career, "retired" as a SAHM after working my way up the later to sales and service as a large brokerage firm. In my days, experience and hard work was more impressive than a University Education although it's not like that anymore. I don't know what my little one will be but based on what her strong interests are now, I'm guessing it will include art or music.

Chapters From My Life said...

Very good topic and well written post.
I had ambitions as a kid.. I wanted to study Astrophysics and only that. My family was dead against it. So I ended up being a counselor, teacher and net addict now.
As for my kids.. My daughter is with special needs and so I am allowing her to become self independent as much as possible first..
As for my son..... he is still not focusing but thinks he would love to get into the gaming industry. Sometimes whatever happens to us is much better than the plans we make.

I think parents should read Scot Pecks book 'The road less traveled'.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Very thought provoking.

My three girls grew up hearing about the "order" that they should try to live by. Finish high school, go to college, get a good job, get married, have kids. That's what we put into our kids heads from the time they could listen so it was never a big deal. They were always active in school/sports but never pushed, they had a love for their activities. All were very good students and now out of college, have careers with one still in college. Yes we took in the foreign exchange student, yes attended summer camps, yes volunteered, yes AP classes, yes good GPAs, yada yada.

The secret to my girls success, I believe, is in part because they had like minded friends from families that shared similar family values.

Bernie said...

I think if parents listen very carefully their children will give them input into what they are interested in and then the parents can aid their child. I sincerely believe the child will/should lead.
.......:-) Hugs

Therese said...

Hi, I'm new but I wanted to say I thought this was a very clever post. I have a little girl and her dad and I are already fussing about what sort of educational future we need to lay away for her.

yonca said...

When I was a little girl, I used to say, a doctor.Pediatrician. I love kids.At least I have one;)My son loves music,dance,talking(a lot),he was full of energy(still he is)When I noticed,I put him in a swimming class.He is a good swimmer now.I don't know what the future brings to him.But he loves connecting to people. I'm sure he would be a great tv kid if I got a chance to put him in any kids show though. We record some of his shows and put on KidzBop.I'm still looking for what else I can do about it.Whatever he choose I'll try to be help him on his own way.
Thanks for this great post Anita!

Robin said...

Hi Anita...I just read a very similar post here

and you make like this and his blog as for me..I encouraged and afforded them the opportunities to try out a lot of things...but they need to make their own choice with no prompting or pressure from hubs and I..My oldest started college as a music major and is now going to work on her masters/Phd in geography to teach college level geography..whould a thought..her statement after her first geography class.."wow I love this why didnt they ever teach this in HS"...geography isn't really taught any more...she plays many instruments and we all thought that is what she wanted for a career..but how things other daughter is interested in weather and climate..she wanted to be the next Oprah..Lol...they dont need to be pushed in HS to "know" what they want to be..they need to find it on their own through embracing change and thinking passionately...thats just my opinion..Have a great weekend..!

Anita said...

CHOCOLATE, MENONEWMOM, FARILA, ALWAYS NESTING, BERNIE, SAINT DELORES, YONCA, ROBIN - Thank you for starting us off with a good discussion, and for recommending the similar post, ROBIN, and the book, FARILA. I will read the post, and browse the book the next time I'm in the book store or library. Maybe, part of it in online. I heard about "The Road Less Traveled" years ago, but I don't know what it's about.

Your comments on this topic express feelings that many can ponder.


One Photo said...

Interesting discussion Anita and a topic I have already talked about with my husband. I remember the career discussions at school and what a total waste of time they were, being so focused on getting a good education and learning a profession. All of which I did and I was lucky as I ended up with a career I enjoyed that opened up so many doors of opportunity for me. But I think there were other options that could have provided me with a far more fascinating career had I been encouraged to explore them - like photography or journalism. My husband was encouraged to learn a profession by his parents and became an accountant. He is now in IT and has done well in his career but in truth it is not a career he loves. What he was really interested in and still is passionate about is Egyptology, Archeology and such things. He loves channels like National Geographic and can't understand why it holds no interest for me.

So what I tell my husband is that if as she starts to grow we detect certain interests and passions in our daughter, I will encourage and support her if those passions point to a career path, no matter whether it is something that affords her a good income or not. We will help her to evaluate her options but try and keep as broad and as open a mind as we can. Work takes up so much of your life and time and to spend all that time doing something you don't enjoy is such a waste of your life, assuming there is something out there that could instill passion in your career and life.

Glad to have you back blogging Anita and providing us with thought provoking topics for discussion!

Grumpy Old Ken said...

Fascinating. In a way I'm glad I have grandchildren rather than children to worry about. pressure, always pressure.
(I've only just noticed you are 'black' Read your profile)Are there special problems re bringing up children. The UK is still very class ridden. There's no doubt 'money talks' though it guarantees nothing I'm glad to say.
Interesting also the comments are female except mine. I get the impression mothers have much more say in things nowadays. (Thank goodness)

gayle said...

It sounds to me that you are guiding your children in the right direction. I encouraged mine to go to college. I think it is very important in todays world!!

Anita said...

AGING MOMMY - I've had similar thoughts as you and your husband, and I'm sure so many others have too.
It's very validating to hear know that many of us have questioned our journeys along the way.
I wrote a couple posts that are somewhat related:

I Used To Be A Computer Programmer


Anita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anita said...

GRUMPY OLD KEN - Yes, since becoming a mother, I feel so much responsibility in ensuring a good life for my children; but really, we only have but so much control. It's not all in our hands, is it?

And yes, many black Americans are lagging - still suffering from the after-effects of slavery. Too much history to put in this comment, but in a nutshell, when I was born, black people were still forced to ride in the back of the bus, so of course, much of mainstream society did not want to integrate and, say, have a black child to grow up and expect to be a doctor for a white patient.
Thankfully, many Americans have come a long way from that.
I'd love to visit the UK someday and get a feel for life there. Perhaps I will. :)

Anita said...

GAYLE - I think if one of my kids told me she was not going to college, I might faint. :)
Actually, I'd live...and hope she had a VERY good plan.

Tammy @BeatriceBanks said...

Thanks for sharing this. I'm a teacher and my hub is in med school. We have started over so he could pursue his career passion. Never too late, but oh so much easier when you're young! Neither of us had much input from our parents about education. No one really encouraged him to attempt this path, not even the school counselor. And he had the grades, etc to succeed. In fact, he has made straight A's so far, which is no small feat in med school. So, in our house, college is presented as a requirement not an option. I tried to steer my daughter in the area of her interests but quickly learned this was not working. I should have known b/c when she hit about 16, suddenly she wanted the opposite of everything I suggested. She's an incredible girl, works hard, never been a problem. But she wants to have a mind of her own. I've come to the conclusion that from the day our babies are born, we have to start letting go. From their first wobbly steps to skinned knees, from kindergarten to high school. All I can really do is be the cheerleader. My main job is to help my children believe in themselves as much as I believe in them.

Anonymous said...

I think the most responsible thing we can do as parents is to encourage, support, and provide and education and let them decide their career choices. When my kids were little they used to want to be the trash men who got to ride on the back of the trash trucks, then they wanted to deliver pizza. Now, both are in college, one in business management and the other in biology. We've had the times when they've wanted to drop out, and I must say that we didn't handle it very well, esp. when one wanted to join the armed services. However, their choices must be their choices.( I say that because they are both currently still enrolled in college...I'm sure if one decides not to continue, we'd have to adjust to the decision)Where do you live in Virginia? I am from Nelson County and have lived in Va. Beach since getting married almost 28 years ago.

Anonymous said...

Wow...yes my husband and I always think about this! I think we are the sports parents! haha...although now, we just observe the kids and see where there heart goes in day to day activities. We see one is very hands on and doesnt care about getting we think mechanic! haha (owning his own shop)! We are very open minded though, and would just hope our parenting makes them want to further their education, but we would try to guide but ultimately let them choose the path their heart desired. As long as its not a destructive path, then I may have to intervene!

Its funny because kind of on the same path of the future of our children, hubs and I were talking about what if one of our children came to us in the future and told us they were gay. Im thinking of doing a post on this. But not sure.

Corve said...

I think parents should guide their children but not force them. Of course, parents want their kids to succeed and do well and sometimes their own interests cloud the fact that the children in the end should have the final say, once they participate and stay active.

Let the children have a say - sometimes they can be right.

Dorraine said...

A very wise post. I've seen it all over the years and it seems different things work for different families as you've pointed out.

For our children, our main desire is for them to be happy. To love what they do. We've had one who spent her first two years in community college, which worked out great for her and us. She is graduating in May with an English degree and will be moving to LA to pursue a screen writing career.

Another is at an ivy league college, which costs us out the wazoo, but she is happy and going for that music/business degree.

I never bombarded my kids with activities because I wanted them to be kids. They got to play and had plenty of time to use their imaginations. They have thanked me for this, which is one of the great rewards of parenting.

Hey, Anita, I have something happy for you over at my blog today. Smile!

Abby said...

Once again, a thought provoking post!

My husband and I tend to be on the "let them follow their ownn path" side. I want them to be fulfilled and happy in their profession, but I also want them to be responsible and financially comfortable.

It seems sort of ironic in my job, where I sometimes work with kids with TOTAL helicopter parents. I just need to bite my tongue and do what they're paying me to do!

Bernie said...

What a fascinating blog and so timely and on such a universal topic!

We are of a different generation --probably two generations away from most of your followers. We raised our four that they would, of course. go to college and there was no question. These will be the best years of your life, we said.

They all followed different paths than they thought they would and found fields they enjoyed.

I just think you have to expose your kids to travel, sports, music and the arts and let them decide as they will when the time comes. They'll ask for your opinion if you have been close to them as they grew.

Helicopter parents do not give their children the biggest gift of all and that is the guts to make their own decisions and live by them with the tools they have been provided. If they haven't learned by the time they leave for college how to get along without mommy, that I think is the greatest mistake. Guidance is one thing. Holding their hand and leading the way is another.

Anita said...

TAMMY - Love your last line in particular - believing in my kids and helping them to believe in themselves. I've gotta keep that in mind, especially in those moments when they're scaring me with their crazy ideas, etc. :)
Continued best wishes to your family as your husband nears his medical destination!

Anita said...

SUZICATE - Glad to hear your kids are on a path that is probably satisfying to them, and hope it will lead to fulfilling careers.
I like hearing from those of you who are ahead of me in your "Mommy role."
I'll send you an email telling you of all the places I've lived in Virginia and elsewhere. :)

Anita said...

TRISH - Good that you are open minded to the possibility of your children doing jobs or having businesses that are not the so-called white collar jobs. Success can can be achieved many ways.
Good point about the 'gay' question. We have to be prepared or open to handle situations that could be total surprises or shocks.

Anita said...

CORVE -Good advice. And, I think you're right about the parents guiding our children based on our own interests. We've gotta watch that. Thanks. :)
I'll be visiting your blog again soon. Currently away from home, and not much reading time.
Thanks for visiting and following mine!

Anita said...

DORRAINE - If I had it to do over, English would be on my list! :)
The sound of your comments tells me that all is well with your children and the decisions that were made.
Thanks for adding encouraging words. :)

Anita said...

DORRAINE - Oh, I'll stop over soon. I'm out of town and not on my computer, but I hope I will be able to get my "something happy." :)

Anita said...

ABBY - I've seen those TOTAL helicoptor parents. I hope I'm not one of them. lol
I like the "own path" philosophy, long as their path is in their own house and not mine. :)

Anita said...

BERNIE - Such words of wisdom.
I especially like the idea of exposing kids to all the areas you mentioned, because how can you know what you want to do if you haven't seen much in life? Hopefully, kids that can't be exposed to much will be guided by caring teachers who will encourage book reading.
I fear a lot of kids are going to be in the position of not knowing how to be an adult because of the "hand holding" you mentioned. I've already seen a few.



Hilary said...

I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

But, to your question regarding input on the part of the parents, I think the parents job is to guide the child as they make the decision for themselves.

I mean, if your child really wants to be involved in musical theatre but has two left feet and is tone deaf, well, perhaps they can do set design or something :) Of course, if they are musically gifted, the parent should make opportunities available to the child in order to cultivate that.

It's not about how much money you make or how many people say "How high?" when you say "Jump!" -- it's about being happy with who you are and what you do. If I can do that for my girls, then great.

Nakamuras on Saipan said...

Well..being on the other side of the fence now with my girls and looking back I can say that the one thing I did that really helped them was pray. I prayed that God would guide them into the women He meant for them to be. It didn't really matter to me what they did, what mattered to me was -is this what God wanted for their lives? I prayed "Thy will be done" in all of their lives. I believe each one of them is exactly where God wanted them to be....for now. If they are where God wants them to be then it does not matter what I want.

Dori said...

Geeze...I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up and I'm looking 40 in the eyeballs! :) But I've sure had a lot of fun trying to figure it out! But growing up I constantly got the question, "Are you going to follow in your parent's footsteps?". My answer (when I finally learned I could stand up for myself) was that I had my own path to take. My own footprints to make.

We're really trying to instill in our young kiddos that they can be anything and do anything they want to be or do. know, within legal bounds (Daddy is a cop, after all!) At the same time though, we don't want to overlook interest and talent in one area simply because we want them to have a broad spectrum. At what point to we encourage them to start focusing in one direction? Or do we not? This whole parenthood thing is a huge responsibility!

Unknown said...

While parents definitely do influence their children, ultimately most of the children upon becoming an adult will choose their own path. Especially if the parents did a really great job of instilling strength of character.

Julie Magers Soulen Photography

Lisa Smith said...

Thank you for your sweet words to me, Anita.

The questions of motherhood abound, don't they?

I pray that God will give me the dreams and the grace to parent leading my children the way they should go.

Blessings sweet friend,

People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. - This is what many parents learn once their children graduate high school and/or begin college.

Everyone thought my daughter would stop with an Associate's Degree and a local community college....she's currently studying to complete her Masters.

Everyone thought my son would get his Bachelor's in business. He withdrew from college halfway through his second year.

They were raised with the expectation that they would go to college if they wanted to get a "good" job.

We can only do our best, as we know it at the time, for our children and then pray a lot. Eventually, they must find their own way.

So, I guess I'm saying there is no 'one right way'.

Buckeroomama said...

Great post!

I was lucky enough that my parents were fully supportive in all that I do --from choice of university, choice of major, job/career, etc. They let me know early on that I could succeed at whatever I wanted. Their faith in me is something that's a major factor in all my achievements.

I think that we do what we can, as parents, to ensure that our children are adequately equipped to make the choice that is right for them as far as what they want to pursue as a career when the time comes... Even if they do not make the right choice initially, that they will be courageous enough to admit that it's okay to start again down another path, if that is what will lead to their eventual personal fulfillment. Past a certain stage, I believe that we just need to be there for support... and
let them chart their own course.