Once someone asked me if there was anything my kids could grow up to be that would disappoint me. I said no. Which wasn’t totally honest. The answer to that is actually yes. I would be disappointed if they grew up to be unkind. If they grew up to intentionally hurt others, to be dishonest. But that wasn’t the spirit of the question.
We’d been talking about who we were, and who we thought our parents dreamed we would be. My dad dreamed I would be an architect. I know this to be a fact. (I think he probably also dreamed I’d be a conservative who he could talk about the latest episode of Hannity or Rush with, but that’s unconfirmed.) When I was little I loved to play with my dad’s architectural rulers, and draw fake house plans at the table where he was working on real ones. I loved the smell of the ammonia when we’d go pick up the finished blueprints from the architects who approved his plans, and the way the blueprints looked. I spent days working with him on homes. Talking to the people he was building for, and collecting small pieces of wire that I turned into little animals, and fake retainers. I can imagine him imagining me growing up to be the one who he took his drawings to in order to have them turned into official house plans.
This was a plan for my life that I rejected. Partly because I didn’t want to be an architect because my dad thought I should be one, and partly because I didn’t really like math, but I adored books. So I went to school, and spent a lot of money to spend five years reading in order to get a liberal arts degree in English.
So there we were, chatting about our parents’ hopes and dreams for us, and expressing how much we probably missed the mark. Since I’m the one between the two of us who had kids, we ended up talking about them too.
“What if your daughter grew up to be a stripper? Would you be disappointed? Don’t you want more for her?”
“I’ll only be disappointed if she’s doing something she doesn’t want to do. But if she wants to strip, then she will, and I’ll encourage her to buy the club so that she can do what she loves, and create the environment she wants for herself, and the other dancers.”
It wasn’t the answer they were expecting I don’t think, and it may not sound genuine, but I assure you that it is.
I want my kids to grow up to be happy, loving, empathetic, compassionate humans. Those are my hopes. I want them to care for one another, and talk on the phone more than once a month because they genuinely enjoy the other’s company. I never want them to feel like I’m disappointed in them, and I want them to want to talk to me about their lives. Those are my dreams. Other than that, the sky is the limit for them. They can be anything, go anywhere, and I will be there cheering them on.
Sometimes I think about where I’d be if I had gone to school to be an architect–if I’d pursued that dream my dad had for me. I think I could have been good at it. But there isn’t a day when I wake up that I’m not glad I chose my own way, or when I feel I should have followed a different path. My greatest wish is that someday my kids look back on their lives, and feel the same way.