From the time my middle son was old enough to be asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he always answered with the same confident voice, “A lion.”
He never questioned it. It seems that each child is drawn to their own animal, and his was clearly a lion. One of our favorite babysitters asked him that question, and after his standard answer, immediately said, “Oh, cool! Do you have to go to college for that, or do they train you?”
His older siblings were under strict instructions to NOT tell him that he could not be a lion. I knew that knowledge would sink in for him in its own time. I wanted him to believe in his dream for a long as possible.
I remember in painful clarity the day he came home from kindergarten. He was quiet and withdrawn, not his normal self. I busied the other kids with something and pulled him away from it all. I asked him what was wrong. His answer broke a piece of my mom heart. “I don’t think I can be a lion when I grow up. I don’t think that is how it works.”
Then he cried.
He cried the death of a dream. Even at 5 years old, he felt his dream die.
We went on to talk about how maybe he couldn’t BE a lion, but maybe he could work WITH lions. Maybe he could work on a rescue or reserve for lions. As he has grown and developed an interest in different sports, I have wondered if he will end up on some team sporting the name Lions.
Goals are important to children, and people in general.
In our society, as parents, we are told that the goal for our kids should be to attend college. Is that really the best choice for all people?
Recently I was in a conversation with some parents about this very topic. One mother said, “College is not a question for our kids. They will be going, there is no way around it.”
This was the mindset of the majority of people in the room.
As usual, I was the exception. I hesitantly voiced my opposition.
I don’t think that EVERYONE needs to attend college. I fully value higher education, but I do not find it to be the only road to a successful adulthood.
If the person’s goal is to be a stand-up comedian, graduating from a state school with 40k+ in debt may not be the way to go. That student loan debt very well may prove to be the barrier that keeps them from pursuing their goal.
Why don’t we ask our children what type of people they want to be instead of what they want to be?
If my children are multi-millionaires but are a-holes, then I have failed as a parent. If my children are happy, stable, compassionate, kind people, who work a job that provides the standard of living that they desire, then I have succeeded.
We need to teach our children that their goals matter. That they can be what they want to be, even if others cannot see the vision like they can. The goal may not look like they originally thought. Goals change and morph throughout time.
Maybe they will train lions. Maybe they will save lions in a private rescue. Maybe they will not.
The dream can still be there, if the goal requires a degree, then that most definitely is their path. That does not have to be for everyone.