My oldest is just eight years old, but the father/daughter conversations we have are sometimes much more incisive and profound than just about any that I have with actual “adults.” We had a long conversation tonight, just the two of us, on the subject of “growing up.”, one which I thought fitting to share with you here.
You see, as a parent, I know that one of my most important objectives is to foster and nurture the goal in my kids that they should want to grow up to be caring, honest, productive, and responsible adults who can set and achieve their own goals in life. It’s what the life of my wife & I revolves around.
But this conversation started like this:
“Dad, I’m actually really nervous about becoming a grown-up.”
As it turned out, through much conversation, she was nervous about growing up to be a homeless person, because she knew that people who are unproductive and get nothing done end up homeless. Vagrancy is unfortunately a great problem in my city, with a mind-boggling number of able-bodied, mid-20’s & 30’s men & women camping out on our streets and panhandling to (very overtly, unfortunately) buy pot.
My daughter knows that she doesn’t want this, knows that she wants to have a family of her own, have a job of her own, and wants to be productive and happy. The core of her nervousness, after much engaging conversation, came down to:
(a) She hadn’t really considered the fact that she did have a full 10 years left before she’s technically an adult, and hadn’t considered that this was a lot of time with which to fill in the necessary skills she was missing to be a successful adult.
(b) She hadn’t really considered all of the things that she didn’t yet know – but really did want to know, which would help her be successful in life.
We talked about things she would like to learn, and what she’d like to be, do and have as a grown-up. She wondered if I’d ever been nervous about growing up. I told her I was generally excited about it, but that I’d actually had to change gears entirely when I got to college, as I realized the goal I had as a child (I really wanted to be an automotive engineer starting at a young age) turned out to not be what I wanted for a career.
She then gave me a big thank-you for having decided to learn computer work, because she said it was much easier to take my computer work anywhere, than it was to take a car factory around with me. She thanked me for this, because she can see this lets me spend a lot more time with her and the rest of the family (a validation I didn’t see coming).
And then, she set to work, writing away well after bedtime on her bedside table, scrawling away all of the things she knew that she didn’t know, so that she could add to the list as time went on, and scratch things off as she’d learned them.
I wanted to write about this, because I think this particular experience tonight was sort of a vignette that explains so much of what’s important to me as a parent. I want to expose my kids to as much as I can, to get them asking questions and seeking out what interests them.
It’s somewhat relevant to note that we’re right now in the midst of a rather epic tour of the United States by train.
Rocky Mountain Goats in Glacier National Park
Bighorn Sheep in Glacier National Park
Hiking in Glacier National Park
Waiting at East Glacier Park Station to catch our westbound Amtrak train
Playing cards on the train to pass the time
Exploring Chicago while waiting for our next train
We set off from Oregon a week ago on an eastbound Amtrak train, and spent a day exploring Glacier National Park, and while hiking saw a family of Rocky Mountain Goats and had a rather scintillating face-to-face encounter with a bristling daddy bighorn sheep that easily outweighed me by 50 pounds. We saw thunderstorms over the Mongolia-like plains of Montana and North Dakota and had life-changing Italian Beef sandwiches in Chicago before heading east through Appalachia to DC where we are now. We’ll hit New England next week before later on heading back west to spend some time in the Grand Canyon, a conference in Las Vegas and beachcombing on the California Coast.
I take immense pleasure in broadening my kids’ horizons and making their world real to them, so that when it comes time for them to start choosing their own paths in life, they have plenty of data with which to do it.
Folks ask me what it’s like growing up in a Scientology family. I try my best to embody this particular Scientology article entitled A Child’s Dignity and His Goals:
“Perhaps the single most important point for parents to follow is the importance of giving goals to a child. And the most important goal is that of growing up to be an adult.”
“A child should have responsibility and independence commensurate with his status as a child. He should have things which are wholly his and about which he decides everything. But under no circumstances should he be possessed automatically of as much right as an adult in the sphere of the home. To give him this is to remove the main goal of his life: growing up.” – L. Ron Hubbard