Tuesday, October 25, 2016
When I grow up...
Just before our MLK weekend trip to Florida, Sumner and Marshall were assigned a first grade project about what they want to be when they grow up. They were to research it, write a report, and then present it to their class this past week. I wasn't totally sure what Sumner would choose, she tends to surprise us because she has always been such a unique thinker. But Marshall, I just knew she would choose teacher because she is forever shutting herself in the playroom and playing school while wearing my highest heels, not sure why she thinks this is what teachers wear, she sees me go off to teach school in flat shoes every day, "Are those the kind of shes Mrs. Powell wears?" I tease, truthfully I kind of like the glamourous spin she gave to teaching with her sassy shoes.
So I should have seen it coming when I observed what they were watching on the airplane to Florida. They were so both enamored with having their own personal Jet Blue TV and we let them choose whatever they wanted to watch. Except for CeCe, who, when allowed to choose will select the MOST inappropriate things. She was sitting with Elliot (who was happily engaged with CNBC and paying no attention) in the row behind me and I turned around and saw her face glued to the television with eyes as big as saucers. When I tapped her and asked her what she was watching she said, "It's about babies," Then I realize that she had tuned into A Baby Story on TLC, a show on which they video actual births. NOOOOO, not yet, I mean she knows about it and everything but there was no need for her to truly witness it.
So back to When I Grow Up, Marshall chose to watch the Food Network the entire plane ride and Sumner tuned into Animal Planet. I could have guessed from this alone what they would choose as their professions. Sumner wanted to be a Pet Shop Owner, a natural choice as she has always been a gentle,sweet and attentive animal lover. No baby dolls EVER for this girl, she is strictly a stuffed animal kind of a kid. Elliot and I tried to explain that it takes a lot of money to start your own pet shop but she clearly was not thinking of the business side of it. She just wanted a shop where the pets wouldn't have to be caged up and could wander around, sort of like free range chicken but with dogs, cats, bunnies, whatever.
But Marshall? She dropped teaching in a heartbeat after watching a few episodes of Ace of Cakes. I don't usually like to abbreviate but so I don't totally shock my Mother I'll just say WTF? Hadn't I made teaching AND mothering look appealing? What happened to all of those hours she has spent playing school? All the checklists I have made so she can take the attendance of all her stuffed animals? Brown Bunny? Check. Nibbles? Check. Hop? Check. Bear Bear? Oh he must be sick today. Maybe she soured on the idea after she tried using CeCe and our neighbor's 4 year old as students recently, an endeavor that did not go so well. I was in the kitchen making dinner and heard her yelling at them from the playroom, "Would Mrs. Powell ever use a voice like that to you?" I asked as she shook her head, no, for she has the utmost respect and admiration for Mrs. Powell, and Marshall would do anything to please her AND be like her.
So Marshall gave this project considerable thought and then decided she wanted to be a baker like her Aunt Lesley. "You know it's a lot of hard work and being on your feet and getting up when it's still dark out." I said, not trying to discourage her, but getting over the shock that she had dropped my profession without thought after a couple of hours with the Food Network. "I know," she shrugged, and stuck with her decision. Fine by me, I tried not to be snippy about it, but still. I did get a little worried when she asked me if she would have to go to college to be a baker or if she could just go straight into baking. I tried not to put any pressure on her but said, "Well, Dad and I would like you to go to college, and you could take some art classes there and become and even better cake designer." This is code talk for "You're going to college and that's that."
I can't help but think that this whole When I Grow Up project is a rite of passage. Someone needs to do a study on what people choose as a kid and what they actually end up being. Elliot wanted to be a garbage man when he was little. When I called my parents to ask if they had any of my old projects about what I wanted to be they said, "We don't remember what you wanted to be, but your sister wanted to be a school cook." Ok, so I understand them remembering how hilarious it was that Tracy wanted to be a school cook, who in their right mind actually chooses this. Great, that is just so typical that no one saved the project of the third kid. They probably have my sister's when I grow up presentation on Betamax video and then no one even remembers what even I CHOSE.... I know, I know, I need to stop feeling sorry for myself and get back to the point. I'd bet $100 I will get a phone call from my Dad today to tease me about this, I can hear him now, "Oh, poor baby Caroline, your life was sooooo hard."
Even though my parents couldn't remember what I wanted to be, I didn't even need to ask them because I already knew what I would have chosen. I always wanted to be a Mother AND a Teacher, aspirations that have remained constant my entire life. It dawned on me how lucky I am to actually be doing both. Now, mother, wife, teacher, grad student extraordinaire? I think I am pushing the limits a little lately and spreading myself a little too thin.
In a Family Theory class I took over the summer we watched a documentary in which the idea that the Mother's state of mind establishes a balance for the whole family. One would think that I would be pleased with such an important role, but this statement managed to strike a cord of irritation in me. Why does it all have to come down on the mother? Kid gets in trouble at school? Must be the mother. Preschooler bites on the playground? Bad mothering is the probable cause. Kids are picky eaters? Must be the mother's cooking style (or lack of).
I think I need to focus a little less though on what irritated me about this documentary and put into practice what was said next which is this: Mothers must find something they enjoy and do more of that. This sounds so simple and it got me thinking, "Hmmmmmm what do I like, what do I like," My conclusion is that I pretty much like what I am doing, I just wish there were a few more hours in the day to do it. To be a mother in the 21st century means doing the delicate dance of showing our kids how much we want to be home with them while also having a life ourselves and enjoy things that have nothing to do with our kids.
So I think this is what we tried to emphasize with the When I Grow Up projects. You have to ENJOY what you are doing or else you are not going to want to do it. I couldn't be as perky with all of my sweet students if I didn't actually WANT to be there each day. And the truth of it is, I really don't care what my kids decide to be. One of the things I so appreciate about Elliot as a father is that he feels the same way. "I don't care where they go to college, as long as they go." he has said. I LOVE this about him, because he adores these girls and wants them to feel fulfilled and confident about what they are doing, wherever they are and whatever they decide to do.
I truly don't care if Marshall is a teacher, it's the being a wife and mothering that I want to model well. I told the girls that my number one dream was to be a wife and mother, and if I can possibly show them how much I love doing this each day then I am really getting somewhere, regardless of where I went to school or what my other aspirations may be...or how annoyed I may get with them during the day, we mothers are only human, you know...