One thing I always try to do, as a parent, is not put too many expectations on my kids, in terms of their interests and what they might want to be in life. I mean, I do expect them to be kind people, and helpful around the house, and to work their hardest at school. But I also try not to assume that they will be doctors or lawyers or Prime Minister, or to dream that they will dedicate their lives to building schools in Africa before winning the Nobel Peace Prize, or to fantasize about them winning an Olympic gold medal (total fail on that last one, BTW). They have their own hopes and dreams and I want to encourage that, and support them, and watch them earn their own happiness.
Well – that’s the idea, anyway. Over March Break we went down to visit our extended family and there I saw my teenaged nephews, who are just at the age where they’re trying to figure out what to do with their lives. One of them is in Grade 11, and I asked him if he had started to give some thought to what he wanted to do, and he said he definitely wants to go into business. Which totally makes sense, because both his parents are in business-type fields, and he has a knack for it, and a real flair for entrepreneurship.
But my immediate reaction was: HMMMM.
Both Sir Monkeypants and I are engineers by training and it was in that very moment that I realized, with crystal clarity, that I have actually been assuming that my kids will do something technical. The Captain is good at math and really, really loves it, and his analytical mind makes him a natural for something like computer programming. Gal Smiley is all about the science – a few days ago at bedtime she spent a half hour excitedly telling me all the things they had learned that day in school about The Human Eye – and I picture her going into research, or maybe something medical. Little Miss Sunshine doesn’t have a clear cut preference yet but she enjoys school and works hard at it and I’m sure she will be able to pick and choose her future.
As long as it involves math, of course.
I’ve often pictured myself as being the gentle, benevolent parent, softly encouraging my kids as they pursue acting (and then thank me profusely at the Oscars) or supporting them through art school (where they respond by doing an acclaimed series of works entitled “Mother”) or cheering from the sidelines as they take gold in Olympic Freestyle Skiing. But it turns out, in the end, what I really want is for them to be just like me and Sir Monkeypants, to do what we do, to think like us and value the things we value.
Is it for validation, so we know they love and respect us? Is it because I really can’t put value on interests that don’t match my own?
I’m not super stressed about it – it’s just something to think about. And now that I’m aware of my own expectations – maybe I’ll be able to manage them a bit better.