Picking up where I left off regarding children and their future aspirations, I have pondered long and hard about what is the correct way to aid your children’s development – if indeed there is a correct way. Do you stand by them if they make what you believe are unwise decisions, or do you try to steer them to make the best of their talents and skills?
The problem is, if you make a mistake, you can’t go back and fix it.
I don’t recall having any early conversations with my eldest about her future. That could be because my memory is failing rapidly, it could be because she discussed it with mum, or regrettably it could be that we never got round to it when other influencing factors came into play.
I realise now that one of our biggest blunders was packing her off to university – or letting her go to university, depending on which side of the table you are sitting. I have heard through the grapevine that she never really wanted to go to university and only did it to please mum and dad. Which is really odd because I never had any aspirations for her to go to university, and was cutting back harshly in order to support her while she was there. So hand on heart, I can’t say how that odd situation came about and there was a serious communications breakdown somewhere along the line.
As she appeared to be excelling in her language studies, it made sense to me that she pursue a career which put her skills to best use. My own business was bringing me into contact with consulates and embassy staff in Italy and Spain, many of who where English and very well paid. I suggested that might be a direction she could explore; what I hadn’t grasped is that she really didn’t want to do the year overseas but it eventually became very obvious ( I had it spelled out to me) that she wasn’t going back for the duration.
I personally was never disappointed in her that she stopped her studies – I was more disappointed that it appeared that we had somehow pressured her into it in the first place, something that hurts if I’m honest, as I never would have intentionally done that.
I’m practically minded and I know that she had a leaning towards being on the stage, and had designs on becoming a singer or actor. I must admit that I probably didn’t support her fully in that, mainly due to the fact that the industry is full of people who never quite made it, and in practical terms, these days you need a sound job that pays. In my opinion.
She has gone on to become very good in amateur productions, and I’m really proud of her in that.
Practically minded dad. And there’s the issue. I have spent my life securing the family’s future, and on the odd occasion I had a risky opportunity presented to me, I’ve stayed with the safe option – security and stability for the sake of the family. I can’t say we have done bad through that, although I do wonder what would have happened and where I could have got to in my own career if I had been a bit more daring. But the well-being of the family always came first.
So it is second nature to me to encourage a similar philosophy, where perhaps I should be saying sod it, who cares, have a go and if you spend the rest of your life on the streets or homeless, at least you gave it your best shot. “Non, Je ne regrette rien” as Edith would say.
Apparently No 2 had always wanted to be a hairdresser from an early age. Not that I had seen that one coming either, but she stuck it out, got to college, past her exams and set out to run her own place. And hey, she’s done just that. Now, this time I had learned to bite my lip. There would have been a time that I would have said “No, too risky, find some salon to work in and get a risk-free regular wage” but I also know the money comes from being your own boss. So I stood back and watched her commit to it, and I’ve helped as much as I could to support her.
The little one didn’t have much ambition at school and I never saw childcare coming – I think maybe it was an easy option when it came time to pick another course to take her onwards after leaving school, rather than hit the dole queue or Tesco’s checkouts. But she actually has made an excellent nursery assistant and as she has got older she now has the opportunity to move up her professional ladder, and is studying for a management qualification. She’s finding it tough going, but we are all behind her – one thing I have learned is never turn those sort of opportunities down.
Fortunately, I can hand on heart say I haven’t steered any of mine into fulfilling MY desires, or trying to achieve MY dreams through them. So I haven’t asked any of them to become pilots, not even stewardesses, and I haven’t asked any of them to join the police. I HAVE suggested that they join a cruise ship as hairdresser or nursery staff – but that’s just me trying to cash in on the free cruises for family members.
So, it appears I’ve made some mistakes in those early years that can’t be rectified. Well, there’s always “x-factor” I suppose. But I stand by my reasoning and advice, it’s all I can do – it seemed to make good sense to me, but I’ve always been practical and never been led by the heart. It’s all any parent wants to do, to do what they think is best for their kids.
But maybe, when it comes round to that time with your own kids, you should actually ask them what they want to do with their lives – just to make sure you aren’t accidentally /subconsciously imposing your own wishes on them.
Of course, odds are, like myself at that age, they won’t have a clue.