I will take part of the blame. I saw the "World's Toughest Fixes" giant wind turbine show, hosted by Sean Riley, and I couldn't wait to show it to Peanut (my offspring, age 6), so perhaps this is not all Mr. Riley's fault. The current situation is that my daughter wants to be a professional rigger (by trade), and I don't have a problem with that at all. She's already corrected me several times on bridge construction ("It's an I-beam, Mama, not an I-bar") and, besides, how many people are actually killed by landslides each year at Niagara Falls?
She knows how to fix the Columbia River dam and the Alaskan oil pipeline and everything else on the show. Let me repeat: I don't have a problem with the trade of rigging or the possible dangers involved. The problem is she was going to be a Coast Guard pilot, and, in fact, thanked me for finding the keys to the helicopter the other day.
We were in Dillingham, Alaska, on a warm-ish (above 15 degrees) day in March when a Coast Guard helicopter flew across the sky in front of us. I drove my then-3-year-old out to the airport to watch it fuel up and take off again. And once she learned that the Coast Guard rescues people who are in trouble, she decided she was the pilot with an extremely useless crew and had to do everything herself. She started telling everyone we ran into "I'm a pilot," whether or not they had asked about her profession.
I don't remember wanting to be anything when I grew up.
We were sent outside to play for the entire day to preserve my mom's sanity, so I never had the Sean Riley influence. My mom took care of us; my dad took care of everything else. A teenager I knew once told me that she was going to be a pediatric endocrinologist when she grew up; as far as I knew, I was just going to be.
In high school, reality, cynicism, and skepticism started exerting themselves in my mind with regards to the future. My idea of joining the Air Force was thwarted by the fact that pilots have to have perfect vision. The Coast Guard was out, because my principal told me that only the governor's kids get in so they could avoid real service and that I didn't want to do that.
College was OK, but having no actual plan resulted in more degree changes than I will ever admit to. The only thing I knew, with absolute certainty at the age of 18, was that I would never, ever, get married or be a mom.
My best friend wanted to get married at 16 to some marine. Seriously, she was planning the wedding during our sophomore year of high school. While I had no plans for the future whatsoever, they certainly entailed more than getting married and having kids.
Heading to college, I told my mom in a heavily skeptical tone, "Can you believe that all Laurie wants to do is be a mom and live here? Why would anyone want that?" Notice, I ignored the fact that my mother was a stay-at-home mom to three girls. She replied that maybe some people did and that was OK and to try to be more understanding of people's choices. Thirteen years later I have Peanut, which is wonderful, and still no idea what to do with my life.
Regarding my daughter, Mr. Riley, you have some competition for your profession. Not to worry: The list of things Peanut will be when she grows up also includes paleontologist, teacher, veterinarian, princess, queen, surfer, and mom. Where that last one came from I have no idea, but this was the conversation:
Peanut: I want to be a rigger, a pilot, a teacher, and a mom.
Me: Go to school for all of those things before you have babies, sweetie.
Peanut's father: You can have babies and be a mom before you do all that if you want to.
Me (mentally): No, no, no.
Me (audibly): Pea, you do whatever you want to do as long as it makes you happy.
Peanut: Mama, jumping out of helicopters makes me happy.
It's hard to get yourself figured out when you are taking care of someone else, but I never had it figured out to begin with, so she definitely has a head start on me. Sitting in the car last week talking about her hectic schedule as a paleontologist and rigger, she sighed and said, "Mama, I want to be a thousand things when I grow up. People don't learn all of that, do they?"
Absolutely they do. I wish I felt 6 again.