A few months ago I had a conversation with my kids about careers. My son is nineteen and trying to figure out what comes next for him. My daughter is sixteen and has the next decade of her life completely mapped out. They are about as dissimilar as two kids can be. I constantly wonder how it’s possible for two people from the same genetic pool to turn out so incredibly different from one another. It’s something that has baffled parents from the beginning of time, I’m sure.
The great thing about raising kids from such opposite edges of the universe is that I’ve learned so much from them—things I never would have imagined on my own if I had been given two very mediocre children. Life would have been so predictable and boring had that been the case.
From Dillon I’ve learned that there are different paradigms from which to see the world. Sure, I knew that already, but I’d never lived with someone who was seemingly born with that knowledge. He questions everything and always has. I admit that it’s made for some challenging parenting, but then I think of when I was a kid; I believed the things adults told me without much wonder as to whether they were right or not. I did not question authority. I did not imagine another way. Dillon sees the world with a much broader lens than I do, and for the past nineteen years he’s shown me new ways of thinking. His approach to life has made me a less judgmental person. Parenting him has given me the courage to care less about convention.
Adella has shown me the power of discipline. I know that kids are supposed to learn about determination and hard work from their parents but I can honestly say that that has not been the case in our family. Adella was born with the inability to procrastinate and as a result she gets more done than anyone I know. She’s not afraid of tackling any task or assignment. When she’s struggling with a concept in math or a song for choir, she doubles up her efforts, she puts in her time, she works until she gets it. She’s driven in a way that I have never been, and watching her set and meet goals is an inspiration.
When I try to imagine where my kids will be a decade from now I have an easier time imagining where Adella might be. Although I don’t know what career she’ll choose, I imagine that she’ll have one firmly established by then. When I ask her what she wants to study her answers vary. She’s interested in psychology and social sciences. She also wants to travel. She’s got her path figured out though—she wants to graduate from high school early, go to a small liberal arts college on the East Coast and then possibly medical school. She’s quick to point out that she might change her mind about the medical school part though.
Dillon lives more in the here and now, so his future is more mysterious. When I ask him what he wants to do for a career he doesn’t have an answer, but he might pick up his guitar and play something that he’s written—some heart-felt melody that he’s come up with on his own. He shows me the value of being present in the moment. He reminds me that for some, the journey is more interesting if the route involves meandering the back roads for a while instead of taking the interstate.
They’re at that age now, where we have a lot of discussions about the future. In one of our conversations a while back, when I was questioning them about their desires and goals, they turned it back on me. “What did you always want to be, Mom? Have you always wanted to be a writer?” I thought about it for a while. I thought back to when I was their age. I didn’t have any career goals. If anyone were to have asked me what I wanted to be back then I would have told them I wanted to become a teacher, but that wasn’t necessarily true. The true answer wasn’t something anyone wanted to hear, especially from a teenager.
“I wanted to be a mom,” I told them. “It’s the one thing—the only thing—I really knew about myself.”
I think they were surprised to hear me say that. For the last several years I’ve been so busy working and going to school and trying to establish myself as a writer that I may not have given them the impression that they were my first choice, that I wanted them first and foremost. Sure, I want to be a wildly successful writer now, but it will always be lower on the rung of things I’ve wanted in my life. I wanted them most of all and I’ve been lucky and blessed enough to have my heart’s desire. Everything else I might have or achieve just adds to the abundance of what I’ve already been given.