In Alice in Wonderland, at one point, Alice is walking along a path and comes to a fork in the road. The Cheshire Cat makes his appearance, and Alice asks, “I just wanted to ask you which way I ought to go.”
The Cheshire Cat answers, “Well, that depends, on where you want to get to?”
Alice responds, “Oh, It really doesn’t matter.”
The Cheshire Cat finishes the conversation by saying, “Well, then, it really doesn’t matter which way you go.”
Now, isn’t this true. If it doesn’t matter where we’re going, then it doesn’t matter which way we go.
Of course, as a parent, I want my kiddos to know where they are going. I want them to have direction in life. It was for this reason that I sat down with my kids one Sunday morning and we had a discussion about what they wanted to be when they grew up. I asked questions like these:
“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“Why do you want to be that?”
“What does that kind of a person do?”
“What are you going to have to do to become that?”
“What are you doing now to achieve this goal?”
This needs to be a safe conversation. The kiddos need to know that they can answer honestly. The parent needs to not be disappointed if their child chooses a career path that they wouldn’t choose themselves.
I had a couple of eye-opening moments while I was having these conversations. When my fourth grader revealed that she hadn’t ever really thought about it, I was surprised. But, I couldn’t register my surprise. She needed to know that that was okay.
It’s very important that the kiddos know that any choices that they make now can change. Our interests change. Our desires change. Their interests change. Their desires change. Having a direction in life helps motivate their decisions today, even if the end goal changes later.
My preschooler wants to be a ballerina. She wants to dance on stage and entertain. She knew that she would need to be in dance classes for a long time. She knew that she needs to learn all of the dance steps. She actually had a fairly clear picture of the path that she would need to take.
My kindergartner wanted to be a dad. He didn’t know what he wanted to be when he grew up. All he knew was that he needed to be able to take care of his family. He also knew that he liked to sort and organize things. He likes numbers and computers. He likes to figure things out. This led to a good second conversation. I went through various career choices with him. In this conversation, he decided that being a computer programmer would be a good job for him. Knowing him and his strengths, I think it would be good for him. Again, he will change his mind, and that’s okay, but for right now he has a path to follow.
My second grader wants to be an engineer. He wasn’t sure what that was, or what they did, or what was necessary to get there. But, he’s heard us talk about him when he’s engineering things. His grandpa is an engineer, and his mom likes engineering things as well. The second conversation with him was fun. We went through different types of engineers, and what they do. He decided that probably the best type for him to become would be a Civil Engineer. (His grandpa will be proud). We then talked about the pathway to become a civil engineer. Of course, he will change his mind. In fact, he already did. He now wants to be a scientist. But, I liked that when he told me that, he also said he wants to know what a scientist does and how to become one.
My fourth grader didn’t know what she wanted to be. She knew that she wanted to work with animals. That was about it. She didn’t know how to get a job working with animals or even any of the job titles of people that work with animals. Our second conversation together was great. We went through LOTS of different careers that involve working with animals. She finally decided that she wants to become a zoologist. I think this is a great choice. With her, I went through colleges that offered Zoologist degrees and we looked at admission requirements. This was a great experience, she now knows the exact path to get where she wants.
I know that my kiddos will change their minds, and that’s a good thing. I also know that knowing where I wanted to end up helped me when going through school. I knew that I wanted to be a computer scientist. I decided that in fifth grade. This took me all the way through High School and into college. In college, I changed my mind, but because I had been working with a specific goal in mind, I had a lot of options open.
I want my kiddos to know that I will support them in their choices, no matter what they may be. I will also help them. Having a clear destination will help them see why the path they take matters.