Posts Tagged ‘Family’

“Poop” Makes Things Grow

Wednesday, April 23, 2014
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I was attempting  to pedal my way out of a bad mood yesterday as I rode my bike on country roads bordered by fields in various stages of growth. I was rehashing what had gone wrong during my day when I rounded a corner and the smell hit me.

Fresh manure had been spread on a large field, and the stench was overwhelming.

If you think a field of manure stinks when you are behind the wheel of a car, you should try breathing it from the seat of a bicycle. Not only are there no metal or glass barriers to deflect the smell, but bikes are slower than automobiles so the stink lasts longer.

As I was pedaling furiously to get away, I remembered an incident a few years earlier when I had driven that same route with my daughter and her friend.

“The cows are really stinky tonight,” my daughter complained.

“It’s not the cows. It’s manure.”

“That’s the same thing,” the girls told me.

“Not exactly,” I said. “The manure is put there on purpose. The farmers spread it on their fields to make their crops grow.”

The girls’ initial disbelief was replaced by noises of disgust. ”Poop makes things grow?” they groaned.

That memory of the girls reaction along with my bad mood got me thinking about situations that initially stink but eventually help us grow.

I have yet to meet anyone whose life is so perfect that they’ve never had to struggle with mistakes, failures and bad decisions nor had to deal with difficult people or circumstances.

There are lots of names for such situations, but I consider them “poop,” although the name is basically irrelevant. How we deal with them isn’t.

How we handle stinky situations affects whether or not we grow and develop into stronger people. If we simply run away and avoid them, growth is limited if non-existent. But if we learn how to better handle ourselves or to adapt, we not only grow – we actually blossom.

In reality, we can’t grow when we aren’t challenged, and most challenges aren’t fun. Many times, they actually stink.

But there’s something incredibly rewarding about overcoming such situations.

I realized this as I finally rode my bike past the smell of manure yesterday and recognized that I was in a much better mood.

Yep, poop definitely makes things grow.

The Rules

Wednesday, April 2, 2014
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If nothing else, I am a persistent person.

My husband and my children call me obsessive and tell me that it’s an extremely irritating rules

I prefer persistent, and being persistent is one of my rules for living.

Someday I hope my family understands. In the meantime, I simply hope they learn to appreciate my rules.

In all honesty, I’ve broken several of them, but the outcome was never good. In fact, those miscalculations only reinforced why the following rules are so important to me:

  1. Always admit when you make a mistake. If people already know what you did, they will respect you for the admission. If they have no idea you made the mistake, they will disregard you or believe you are covering for someone else. Either way, you spend a lot less time and energy owning up than covering up.
  2. Never believe you are smarter than those around you. There are multiple forms of intelligence, and having the facts is simply one form of knowledge. Knowing what to do with the facts is something else entirely.
  3. Make time for yourself every day. That’s not selfish; it’s maintaining your sanity. People who think they have no time for themselves are often the least healthy.
  4. Never make political decisions based on what will serve your personal interests. If you do, you will always be disappointed. Make your decisions based on the Golden Rule. If you consider how we treat each other rather than how you can get what you want, you will always be more satisfied.
  5. Don’t ever use your own life and circumstances as a frame of reference for someone who is struggling. You may have succeeded in difficult times, but your resources and support system can’t be duplicated.
  6. Always remember people in the service industry are individuals with their own stories. Listen to those stories. Not only do you have something to learn, they have something to teach.
  7. If you are counting hours at work, you aren’t in the right place. If you are counting the lives you touched in a positive way, you are.
  8. Remember that you are the only person responsible for your own happiness. External gratification is a simple substitute, but it always fails. Always.
  9. If you are going to talk about others behind their back, be accurate about the facts. We all need to vent. That’s human nature. But if you are more concerned with tarnishing someone’s reputation than with being truthful, your reputation is the one that will suffer most.
  10. Watching television isn’t necessarily a waste of time. Scheduling your life around television is.

These are my rules. They might not apply for everyone, but they work for me. My greatest hope for my children is that they can develop their own list of rules and that they can follow these rules down a road to true happiness.

Decision Times

Wednesday, March 26, 2014
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I was organizing old photograph albums on a shelf in the basement when I found a journal from my teenage years. I picked  up thedr-seuss-memory-quote spiral-bound notebook filled with sprawling cursive writing, but I only read a few lines before  putting it down.

I’d thought I would enjoy reminiscing with the author, but I realized that I didn’t even recognize her. I recalled the events and even many of the emotions she described, but I didn’t remember the girl.

Experience and time have distorted my memories of the teenage girl I once was, and even though I still have a great deal in common with her, we are now very different people. And in reading those few journal entries, I found myself wondering how that teenage girl could possibly have been expected to plan what she wanted to do with the rest of her life when she hadn’t yet grown into herself.

dr seussNow, 30 years later, that former teenage girl is fielding questions about what her son wants to do with the rest of his life, and I’m having a tough time believing that he can possibly know.

Maybe I’m a cynic. After all, I’m just as astonished by people who stay in the same career, much the less the same job, for their entire life as I am by people who are still married to their high school sweetheart.

In my world, that just doesn’t happen.

In my world, teenagers are just tall children who are exploring the world and discovering new interests and passions every day. They are young souls who are still learning that life isn’t about one decision that will lead them down the right path but about a series of decisions that will take them on an adventure.  And the are unique individuals who still need to determine how to use their gifts.

But I realize that’s in my world.

In the real world, teenagers are encouraged to identify their interests, decide on a college major and purse a career path by the time they are 21.

Maybe, if I didn’t have a son who was only a baby last week and is turning 16 next week, I might buy into that world.

But in reality, my son who is still trying to figure out who he is, and I’m pretty sure that the only way he can do that is through experiences – both good and bad. My job as a parent is to encourage him so he pursue opportunities that will allow him the time and the freedom to learn about himself.  And I hope he encounters some life-changing adventures along the way.places-ypu-will-go-quote

I also like to think that the teenager I used to be hopes for the same thing.

According to her journal, she does.


The birds and the bees in my bonnet

Monday, March 24, 2014
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Since the first day of Spring has come and gone with the wintery wind, I can use this time of year to say that I have a bee in my bonnet. Correction:  I have had a bee in my bonnet for some time.  I’ll blame snowstorms and snow days, chemical spills and a number of other interruptions for giving me more time to think about things that I ordinarily ignore. There’s an old saying of “having too much time on her hands.” I admit that I’ve had a lighter schedule since the first of the year, because as most working parents will tell you, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a job when schools are delayed or closed at least once a week.

So what’s this bee in my bonnet? Middle school. The very thought gives me hives. I guess I’m planting my hooves in the mud to avoid change, because I’m of the belief that eleven-year-olds don’t need access to full-fledged teenagers. I know, I know:  There’s nothing I can do about it.  Sixth grade was moved to middle school (or junior high) ages ago.  Go on or go homeschool.  Take your pick, Mom.

My complaint with this change is that it strips a year of childhood from our kids (in my limited opinion). As a parent, I feel like my daughter is being robbed of an innocence that’s owed to her. I’m irritated that a group of educators somewhere in the country think that kids should grow up faster.

Yes, I’m whining. I’m not ready to grow up as a mother, either.  But, to lessen the annoyance of that whining, I searched the Internet for reasons why I should look upon this “crossroads of development” with enthusiasm.

According to Public School Review, moving sixth graders out of elementary school was a financial decision for most districts in the nation. Elementary schools were splitting at the seams, while middle schools had plenty of room (clearly, no one studied Kanawha County’s profile). There was also an eagerness among families to get on with it. Boredom and restlessness tend to set in as kids reach sixth grade, and studies reveal that they’re excited to accept new challenges.

Here’s a preview:

1) Girls and boys change physically at this age and stage, with girls making the most obvious transformations in maturity.

2) Girls and boys start to notice each other in romantic ways.

3) Friends become more important than family.

4) Girls and boys are introduced to more adult themes and situations due to the older company they start to keep.

5) That older company also introduces new peer pressures, such as sexual activity, drug and alcohol experimentation.

6) Emotional instability due to those developmental changes produce an entirely new set of problems, which make an adolescent act more like a child from time to time.

I’m not enthused.

What about academics? Does any part of a sixth grader’s step up into the middle school ranks have anything to do with the classroom?

The website, Public School Review, also revealed that sixth graders that remained in elementary school for a final year scored higher on tests than those who were placed in middle school.  Why? Because teachers and counselors dedicated most of the year to managing the above-mentioned adjustments. In elementary school, the year was a continuation of similar subjects and studying. Some states (such as California) are revisiting this decision, with more than a few school boards re-routing sixth graders back to their elementary school bases. However, this poses another problem. Most buildings no longer have enough room, because policymakers filled sixth grade absences with preschool programs.

There has to be a bright side, right? Even though there are more behavioral problems in middle school because of the looser structure (more teachers, more students, more demographics, more socio-economic differences, and more influences), there are key points for sending kids on to the next level.

1) Sixth graders have more opportunities to make their own positive decisions, such as becoming members of groups, athletic organizations, and taking part in extra-curricular activities.

2) Sixth graders can break out of the shell (to some degree) to promote their own abilities and strengths. Rather than being lumped together with 50 kids that are treated alike, stand-outs can make names for themselves academically and establish their own scholastic paths.

Yes, the article stopped at two benefits. I had to search other sites and download white papers to find additional positive facts in this debate, which has been argued for decades.

3) There is a big difference in the way subjects are taught, particularly science and math programs. Students need to learn alternative ways of problem solving, a demand in high school curricula.

4) There are more teachers with greater depth and breadth of expertise in subjects, which expands a student’s intellect and interest in specific areas.

5) Organizational and life skills are stressed at the middle school level. Students tend to be “babied” in elementary school, which hinders their ability to handle situations on their own in higher grade levels.

However, school counselors believe that this critical time in a child’s development is the very reason why extra nurturing is a good idea.

So what do we do, Mom and Dad, if this is the way things are going to be? While there are many viewpoints, the most common piece of advice is to remain involved in your child’s middle school experience even if volunteer opportunities don’t exist like they did in grade school.  You may be called a Helicopter Parent, but you won’t regret sticking close for this particular year. Another tip is to make sure sixth graders are separated from seventh and eighth graders to help control exposure to too much, too soon.  Luckily, our new middle school isolates sixth grade students for the majority of the day to give boys and girls undivided attention from faculty and administrators.

Finally, start talking and don’t stop until you’re blue in the face.  Make sure your child knows that he or she can ask you any question, share any fear, and discuss any situation that doesn’t make sense.  If the door to the school is locked, make sure the one in your home is wide open.



The Sneaky One

Wednesday, March 19, 2014
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One of the great advantages of having friends who are a few years older than me is that they usually have children that are older than my children, have more experience than I do and can offer an entirely different perspective on parenting.

One of the disadvantages is that they have every right to scoff at the pronouncements I make.Yellow_Dude__Sneaky_1_preview

Take, for example, my recent comment that I only have to worry that one of my children will take risks behind my back.

One friend warned me that any adolescent can make poor decisions.

Another told a story about cleaning around an object in her teenage son’s room only to learn years later when he was an adult that the object was a ladder he hung out of his two-story window at night to escape.

And one friend told me “You never know really know which child is the sneaky one.”

She was right. The sneaky one really fools us.

And while I will never admit to ever having my own sneaky tendencies, I know that at least one member of my family does.

Her name is Skitty, and she’s fat, furry and feline. She is an indoor cat who pretends to be afraid of going outdoors, but that is simply her sneaky effort to lull our family into a sense of security.

At times, she provides hints into her true nature when she lurks around an open door leading onto the back deck or stares longingly out the front bay window. But normally she pretends to only be interested in eating and sleeping.

We never would have learned about her true nature if she hadn’t repeated the same mistake on multiple times.

The first time she escaped, no one noticed she was gone until my son yelled, “Mom, I can hear Skitty, but I can’t find her. Since Skitty likes to hide, not being able to find her wasn’t unusual. But she normally only meows when she’s hungry and demanding food. Right in front of one of us. In a very obvious and demanding manner.

But after a search of the whole house, we still couldn’t find her. That’s because she wasn’t in the house at all. Instead, she was in the backyard and had apparently gotten quite hungry, hence her meowing.

None of us knew how Skitty had gotten in the backyard, but we weren’t too worried. We figured one of us had left the door open.

We hadn’t.

The next time Skitty escaped then meowed from the backyard, I started getting suspicious.

The third time she got out, I conducted a thorough search of the house and could find no escape route.

My daughter is the one who solved the mystery. She was in her bedroom when Skitty entered, jumped onto the window sill, pushed the screen out and jumped out of the two-story window over an asphalt driveway. She was able to survive because she still had a few of her nine lives left. That, and she jumped at an angle, landed in the bush next to the backyard fence then jumped over the fence into the backyard.

We fixed the window screen, and Skitty was once again confined to the house. But we were all a bit more aware of her whereabouts, the potential risks to her safety that she was sure to ignore and the outside interests she had worked so hard to hide.

In hindsight, I’m glad Skitty created that heightened awareness. It was good practice for me. As the mother of two adolescents, those skills will come in handy.

Fortunately, I have yet to discover any night-time escapes or truly bad behavior. But I am on the look out for it. Unfortunately, after my friends’ warnings and my cat’s escapades, I’m just not very confident I really know which kid, if either,  is “the sneaky one.”

Chasing the High

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
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The guy behind the wheel of the truck wasn’t just irritating me. He was scaring me.

I was driving to my office on a snowy morning, and the road was icy and slick. The speed limit through the residential part of town was 25 miles per hour, and I was sticking to it. Since the announcer on the radio was warning people to stay off the roads completely, I didn’t feel overly cautious. I felt sensible.

But the guy driving the over-sized silver truck was pushing his luck and was therefore also pushing mine. He was following me so closely that I couldn’t even see the headlights of his vehicle. Traffic everywhere was moving slower than normal and backing off a few feet wouldn’t have gotten the driver to his destination any quicker, so there was no justification for his behavior.

I could only guess that he had something to prove. Maybe he wanted to show me that he wasn’t afraid or that his truck could maneuver over the icy roads just fine. Or maybe he was seeking excitement rather than accepting his circumstances.

I’ll never know if he arrived at his destination safely or if he was one of thousands of people in the Mid-Atlantic region involved in traffic accidents that day. I’ll also never know if  he’ll push his luck again the next time he’s driving in snow. My guess is he probably will because his behavior reminded me of drug addicts who are always chasing the high.

Drug addicts generally don’t start using large amount of drugs, but as their bodies begin to tolerate their substance of choice, they need more and more to achieve the same high. And they aren’t alone.

I know a significant number of people who do the same thing. Only, like the obnoxious driver, the high they seek isn’t dependent on drugs. It is dependent on their need to feel powerful or to have material possessions or to achieve a certain social status. And, like the drug addict, no matter how much they do or achieve, they are never satisfied and just want more.

If this was simply a personal issue or decision, I wouldn’t care. But, like drug addicts, some people’s selfish needs and behaviors have far-reaching implications.

I’m referring to the mothers who complain that they need yet another exotic vacation or the fathers who use their children’s athletic accomplishments to sate their own needs for accolades.

Every time that happens, our children are being taught to chase the high instead of being satisfied with having parents who love them or enough food on their table or heat on a cold day.

I’m not surprised that some people turn to drugs to feel better. We are all surrounded by people who turn to artificial measures of happiness that can never truly be satisfied.

But life isn’t about always being happy, always being entertained, always feeling important or always getting something new and shiny.

Life is about finding joy in the mundane, learning to accept failures, celebrating our relationships and laughing at our mistakes,

I can only hope that more adults, and their children, are starting to understand that.

If not, we will continue to encourage the next generation to keep chasing the high.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014
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The woman at the church picnic was looking at me as though I was raising the devil himself.

I wavered between the temptation to tell her off and the desire to disappear.

I didn’t do either.

Instead, I pretended to be oblivious to her indignation and the judgmental comments she was making to anyone who would listen. whoopsThere was simply no reason to defend my son, who was in elementary school at the time and had said absolutely nothing wrong.

But I seriously doubted  the woman would believe any explanations from me.  She was convinced my son had uttered a very offensive cuss word, and she was relishing her indignation the way others at the picnic were enjoying their fried chicken.

So I ignored her comments and finished our game of miniature golf as though nothing had happened.

But something had happened, and because I hadn’t addressed the issue, for months I felt guilty and angry.

That’s why the next time my son was accused of using foul language, I rushed to defend him. He was a year older, and this time I wasn’t present during the incident in question. Despite that, I insisted I knew my son and that he wouldn’t talk like that.

Actually, he would.

As the story unfolded, he readily admitted he used a cuss word, and I was once again felt guilty and angry.

Years later, my son told me had no idea what the word meant and had simply attempted to use it in the context he had heard others utter it. When he told me that, I laughed just as I laughed at how much time and energy I had wasted on the incident at the church picnic.

In the grand scheme of our lives, neither incident really reflected who my son is or my abilities as a parent. But they were important because they taught me two important lessons: 1) the opinions of other parents have absolutely no place in my family and 2)  I need to prioritize my concerns and my reactions to my children’s behaviors. As long as no one’s life is at risk and no one is being hurt emotionally or physically, I have no need to lose any sleep.

My son is in high school now, and the choices both he and I make are far more likely to have an impact on the rest of his life than when he was in elementary school. Prioritizing my reactions to his missteps is more important than ever.

Which is why, you might, on occasion, hear him cuss.

But if he does, you’ll probably also hear him catch himself and apologize then simply move on with the conversation.

Because he’s learning that moving on from his mistakes is far more important than never making them at all.

His mom is learning that too.

Thanks for Being a Bad Role Model

Wednesday, February 19, 2014
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My grandmother was a Prude with a capital P.

Even though I spent most of my childhood living thousands of miles from her, I feared showing my true self to a woman who expressed immense disgust at even the slightest impropriety.

While I never inherited her decorum, I did inherit her inability to hide distaste. She wore disapproval on her face the way other womensimply be wear makeup.

But her high expectations for other humans and her limited tolerance for behavior that stepped beyond boundaries she defined as appropriate weren’t necessarily bad characteristics.

They kept me in check, because I often asked myself, “would I disgrace grandma if this went public?”

That’s not to say I never misbehaved or made really stupid mistakes. I did. Quite a bit. But when I said and did things in public, I often considered what Grandma would think.

Shortly after my grandmother died at the age of 96 in 2005, I started asking myself another question: “What kind of role model will I be for my children if I say or do this in public?”

Common sense tells me that all parents would ask that question, but once again, common sense doesn’t always prevail.

Times have changed significantly since I worried about displeasing my grandmother. Social media has allowed us to connect with people from childhood and to have a broad audience for our thoughts an opinions.

That shouldn’t give people license to be disrespectful, rude, inappropriate or self-indulgent, but apparently some people think it does.

Twice this week, I saw Facebook posts that would have had my grandmother shaking her head and my children questioning how people can talk about family values out of one side of their mouths while spewing venom out of the other side.

I don’t want to point fingers or to fall into the same trap, so I won’t go into too much detail. But I do have a few words of wisdom that could have, and probably did, come from my grandmother’s mouth:

You cannot call yourself a good parent while belittling other parents in the same sentence. Good parents don’t put down others to pull themselves up.

You cannot claim the moral high ground when you are calling other people names, no matter what the situation.

Never publicly tear down a child or adolescent. Ever. This is just as true for your own children as it is for the children of others.

Finally (and this definitely comes from my grandmother) using foul language in a public setting, whether written or spoken, will never impress anyone. The English language is vast, and limiting yourself to four letter words will never cause anyone to be  in awe of what you are saying. Generally, it just makes others feel sorry for your limited vocabulary and lack of anger management skills.

On the flip side, inappropriate posts and comments in social media do serve a purpose: they provide a great public service. They teach us how foolish we look when we act more immature than (most of us) expect our children to act.

And, even though close to a century separates the birth of my grandmother and the birth of my children, I have no doubt that they would both agree that I make them proud by saying that in public.

Love Lessons

Wednesday, February 12, 2014
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This April, I will celebrate the 16th anniversary of becoming a parent. Since I was already in my thirties when that life-changing event occurred, I am now what  my children consider absolutely ancient. In  the world of adolescents, I am clueless, especially regarding matters of the heart.

That’s in their world.

In my world, or at least in my mind, I have enough experience to render my insights about love worthy of attention.heart

I am under no illusions that my children will even acknowledge my wisdom, but I don’t care.  As Valentine’s Day approaches,  I feel obligated to once again share ten lessons I’ve learned about love:

1. You can’t truly love someone else unless you love who you are. And who you are is an imperfect person who makes mistakes, gets mad and will sometimes say and do very stupid things. Love yourself anyone. How you handle your mistakes and flaws is more important than trying to hide them.

2.  Love is only genuine when you are being true to yourself.  Don’t pretend to enjoy something when you don’t. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t compromise. You should. Love requires a great deal of compromise. But compromise doesn’t mean you should pretend to be someone you’re not.  If you do, you’ll wind up being miserable.

3. Love isn’t a competition, and you can’t make someone love you. You will always be loved for being the unique person you are and not because you are prettier, smarter, funnier, sexier or nicer than someone else. Therefore, you should never worry about what others are doing to attract attention or affection. Being yourself is enough.

4.  You don’t fall in love. That indescribable feeling of “falling in love’” is usually a combination of infatuation and physical attraction. Love is something that is grounded in mutual respect, grows slowly and doesn’t necessarily bloom as much as it thrives.

5.  Love isn’t about romance. It’s about experiencing someone at their very worst and realizing that walking away would still be more devastating than dealing with a tough situation.

6. Love is about having passion in your life – but not necessarily in the way you might think. Never invest so much of yourself in a relationship that you don’t have time for everything else you love. Be passionate about a hobby. Be passionate about a cause. Be passionate about your family and friends. And also be passionate about your love.

7. True love means you aren’t worried about what other people think about your relationship. If you spend time worrying about what others are thinking or saying, you likely have concerns yourself. If you’re confident about your relationship and the integrity of your significant other, you won’t care what others say. Always stay in tune with your inner voice and be honest with yourself.

8. Love means saying you’re sorry. Unlike the quote “love means never having to say you’re sorry” made popular in the 1970′s movie “Love Story,” love means that you’re willing to let go of your ego. Admit when you are wrong or when you’ve said or done something hurtful. And when you are in a relationship, you will say and do hurtful things at times.

9.  Don’t expect love to always feel exciting and new. Just like life, love can sometimes be dull and boring and predictable. Relationships are like roller coasters: sometimes they can be difficult and sometimes they can be easy and fun. But being able to work together during the uphill battles is what makes the downhill ride so enjoyable.

10. People do change, and that can affect your relationship.  Our experiences shape who we become. The person who you fell in love with several years ago will probably be different from the person you know today. And you will be different too.  Many times, you can join hands while you grow.  Sometimes, you drop your hands and grow apart. Often, the decision is yours, but sometimes it isn’t.

As I share these lessons, I realize I learned most of them the hard way. But I also realize that those experiences have made life more interesting. Which leads me to one final lesson about love: it doesn’t make life easier, but it does make it more meaningful.

The Wrong Question

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
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When I was six, I got my first glimpse at how misguided and even harmful some adults can be.

I already thought my teacher was mean (a belief I still hold today), but I never realized  that she didn’t believe in encouraging her students to develop their own dreams and aspirations.

I figured that out the day Mrs. Gladwill handed each student in her first grade class a large piece of paper with space to draw a picture at the top with lines underneath. She instructed us to draw a picture and write a couple of sentences in answer to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

I soon realized that Mrs. Gladwill cared as much about our answers as she would about a random stranger’s response to the question “how are you?” In other words, she didn’t really care at all.

But even as a first grader, I was a bit of an overachiever. I wanted to impress Mrs. Gladwill with my plans to be a trapeze artist. No matter that I was completely uncoordinated and afraid of taking risks, I was going for glamour.

My first grade brain never equated a career, or even a job, with skills, aptitudes and passions that could make the world a better place. All I understood was a job defined you for life. Why else would adults always be asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

I wanted to be glamorous and admired. The problem was, I didn’t know how to spell trapeze. When I asked Mrs. Gladwill, her only advice was to look it up in the “book of jobs” she had provided us.

Needless to say, trapeze artist wasn’t listed.

So I had to ask Mrs. Gladwill again.

Instead of just spelling trapeze or suggesting I think about other possibilities, she told me I should be something “normal” like  a nurse.

I had no desire to be nurse, but I recognized the authority she had. So, I reluctantly looked up nurse in the career book and wrote about how I wanted to be one. Thus ended my aspirations of being a trapeze artist.

A few weeks ago, I was reminded of this incident when my son, a sophomore in high school, brought home his ACT Score report. One side provided his test scores and the recommendation he go to a four-year university. The back side was a complicated graph intended to help him make a career choice. I have a Master’s degree, and I didn’t understand how the “world of work” map could be helpful. And it, like Mrs. Gladwill and so many other adults, asked the wrong question: “what do you want to be?”pablo picasso

Every person already “is.” The question adults should be asking children, adolescents, young adults and even each other is “what are your gifts and how do you plan to share them with others?” That, according to  a quote attributed to Pablo Picasso, is the meaning of life.

If Mrs. Gladwill had asked me about my gifts in first grade, I probably would have told her “my imagination and telling stories.”  Neither lended themselves to being a trapeze artist nor a nurse. They didn’t really point to a career as a social worker either, but I would discover new gifts as I matured.

To  me, helping young people discover their gifts is entirely more useful than the “world of work” map my son was handed. And watching them unwrap and use those gifts is actually a gift for all of us.