Tightrope Parenting

Parenting is one of the most rewarding experiences one can have, as well as the most daunting. And most frustrating. And most habit-forming. I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to start the heavy drinking when one of my kids cracked open a case of vintage whine! But, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

Ultimately, as a parent, you have a responsibility to raise your kids to be well-behaved adults who contribute to society in one way or another. Early on child rearing is pretty easy – child acts up, they get a kick in the rear to get back in line. As they grow it gets far more complicated – Kid 2.0 has more features and potential bugs than Kid, and so on. Hence all the technical manuals on raising kids. But, in a nutshell (or Linux shell for you computer nerds), I’ve come to the simple conclusion that raising kids into responsible adults entails one major skill – tightrope walking. Yes, parents are forever trying to foster their child’s interests and talents to help steer them in the right direction for their future, professional life without grabbing the wheel themselves and thereby leading their child to a life of forced misery in a job and life they despise. It’s a very daunting task, like I said, because parents want their children to have their own dreams and set their own goals. But as parents, you know that some of those goals and dreams aren’t even close to their potential if not woefully inappropriate.

Take for example my eldest. Now that she’s in high school she should have at least an inkling of some of the careers she can pursue in order to plan her education from here on out. And, as her father, I’ve spoken with my wife and my own mother about some possibilities to try to get her interest up. We all see she’s a caring young woman and the job of home health aid seems to be growing. We live in an aging metropolitan region, so that could be a good choice. She’s also very good at math and with some further education could make a decent bookkeeper. But she’s an adolescent and has her own ideas.

She has mentioned becoming an actress. Has she performed in any school plays? Nope. Does she like to sing and dance? Nope. Is she comfortable in front of a crowd? Nope. Is she outgoing? Nope. Then why the heck does she want to be an actress? Well, she figures it’s her only way to get to Hollywood and meet/marry Ross Lynch.

I believe I mentioned it’s a parent’s job to foster dreams and goals in their children. Although I don’t necessarily discourage marrying rich (it would make our own retirement easier if the rich actor/singer son-in-law could help take care of Mom and Pop), I don’t think it a worthwhile goal to have. And given that she has no real interest in acting, I’m not sure that’s the best route. Perhaps she can work on her writing skills and become an entertainment reporter. I feel comfortable saying this because she doesn’t read my blog – otherwise I’d never give her that idea.

Then there’s the 11-year-old. She is very creative and very bright. She’s a talented artist, writer, seamstress, cook, etc. She made her own Elsa costume – only having a little issue with the sleeves on her very first attempt at making a dress. She baked her own birthday cake with minimal supervision from Daddy; and she often makes her own food. Her standardized test results were in the 99th percentile. She could be anything – but she only talks about being a hair stylist. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with that profession and I’d never say she’s too good or too smart to be one. But, to understand my concern about this potential career just take a look at the character Sophie in Super Completely and Totally the Messiest. I mean, would you get your hair done by someone whose hair looked like that? Well, she’s young.

Now, my next two are too young to really be looking into potential careers. However, the baby loves playing with Lego-Duplo building blocks. Perhaps a career in architecture or civil engineering is in her future. When she’s older and the swallow/choke risk has subsided I hope to buy her some traditional Legos. Then, I can play Legos again, too. No more naked Barbies for this Daddy!

So, until I get to experience the joy of seeing my little girls all grown up and standing on their own two feet as productive members of society, I’ll just have to try my best to enjoy watching their journey of self-discovery and not get too stressed out in trying to guide them along the path which will best join their dreams with their talents. And, maybe, along the way, I’ll do the same for myself.

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