Monday, February 21, 2011

The path to making "I wanna be..." a reality

Actually, I haven't decided yet on what I want to be when I grow up! But that is ok.  I still have time.  This week's Blog Cruise question isn't about me, anyhow, but about my kids.

What do your children want to be when they grow up and what are you doing to help them pursue their field of interest?
I've actually talked quite a bit about this recently on my blog.  Every kid has ideas of what they'd like to be when they grow up.  Both of my kids have been pretty consistent with their career desires and I've tried to encourage them, with the exception of a 3-year stint where my daughter claimed she was going to become a Fairyologist.  Yep - she was quite obsessed and even spent a whole summer researching the existence of fairies.  She's moved on to other career choices, thankfully.

My daughter, 14, truly desires to be an actress, preferably on the big stage.  Either that, or a fiction author...or both.  I'm not sure which is top of the list at the moment, as the two have been competing for many years.

My son wants to be a Lego Master Builder.  Yep, every 11-year-old boy's dream job (if they aren't shooting for some sports team).  He's claimed this as his goal ever since he read in a book that this is an actual job title.

So, how do you work with such lofty career desires?  Yes, there are people out there that are successful actors and Lego builders...someone has to do it, right?  But how does one encourage kids with such dreams, knowing that chances are slim, without being discouraging?

The answer is in the question.  How do I help them pursue their fields of interest?  To further break this down, what skills or knowledge are required to reach a goal?

Let's look at actress and fiction author careers. Both require creativity and imagination.  Knowledge of literary works is helpful in both.  Ability to memorize and articulate is useful for any acting field. Obviously, a writer needs to have solid writing ability, both grammatically and in content.  There are also several ways in which these two desires collide into one field. For example, script writing is a blend of both.

Given this, I look for activities and coursework that satisfy the above, but that are also useful in other areas.  My daughter's coursework includes lots of writing and reading.  She enters writing contests frequently.  I find forums that support young authors and encourage her to share her work (one of her blogs). Public speaking activities are a must, and really boost a transcript as well, no matter the field. A debate team or course is certainly on our agenda.  And, of course, there are plenty of theater opportunities to pursue.  Now that I my daughter is heading into high school, and hasn't changed her career aspirations, I'm addressing it a bit differently.  I'm seeking out real acting opportunities to try on for size.  She's been taking an acting class and we are heading down the path of getting an agent.  We recently were able to attend a filming and be part of a crowd scene.  This gives her a chance to see it all in action and see the many specific jobs in this one field.
Playing Amy in Little Women
I also try to find inject a fair amount of realism into the situation.  Most in theater or acting work don't make it big.  Many can't even afford to cover living expenses.  I make sure she doesn't have all her eggs in one dream basket and that her educational background will support whatever. This means she needs to keep up with all math and science and that she understands that she may have to write for a newspaper or magazine while she works on that novel.

Now, what about Lego Master Builder?  It sounds a bit limited, no?  Well, not really.  I see architect, engineer, design, robotics, and electrician.  All of these, including Lego Master Builder, require the ability to see how pieces fit and work together.  To get an idea of what I'm talking about here, take a look at the suggested steps to becoming a Lego Master Builder here. Study and obtain a Bachelor's in art or design, experience in CAD and similar programs, creating a portfolio, research....this list does not entail just playing with Legos!

Math, in particular, but also science need to be a focus. We'll include computer design down the road. I encourage the Lego creations (though stepping on stray pieces is not fun).  It requires a fair amount of problem solving and creativity, which are skills that are needed in many areas.  For the past two years, my son has participated in First Lego League (FLL).  For anyone that has been a part of FLL, you know it is about much (much) more than Legos.  I also found this fabulous blog that gives kids Lego challenges, LEGO Quest Kids. All of these activities are helpful in pursuing his Lego Master goal, which may or may not change as he becomes older, but they also are very useful in the other areas mentioned.

And as with my daughter, he needs to keep up in other areas.  Even Lego Masters need to write on occasion.  I try to show both my kids how every subject fits in with any area they want to pursue. Pursuing one area doesn't mean neglecting certain subjects.

It tends to be a balance.  I don't want to dismiss either goals of either child, as much as my tainted-with-realism adult mind questions them.  However, I've come to realize that encouraging such goals does not mean I am dismissing other paths.  Rather, I am encouraging and preparing for other possibilities at the same time.  Chances are, both of my children will end up in fields that utilize their own personal strengths.  At least, that is what I hope will be the case! For my daughter, that means something creative that likely involves writing.  For my son, that means designing, building, and using parts to make a whole, whether building a Lego display, designing a car, or working on the infrastructure of something much larger.

I truly hope to see my daughter's name on Broadway and see my son's designs at a Legoland display or on the shelves of a toy store. Even if I don't, I know the skills they've obtained in pursing those dreams will benefit them greatly no matter what they do, and may even find something they love more in the process.

While their "field of interest" may seem rather narrow at the moment, I've come to realize that continuing to encourage that interest only makes the path wider and reveals a multitude of rabbit trails. My job is simply to not put roadblocks on the path. It is pointing them in a direction, inspired by their interests, while clearing the path as much as I can, to a final destination not yet known.


MeritK said...

Great post! I love thinking about what our children's generation will accomplish for the Lords in all the different areas of life and in their occupations. Love all that creativity :)


Vickie said...

Great post! We have one that has mentioned being an actress a time or 2. She didn't want to help me deliver flowers on Valentine's Day because she didn't want to talk to strangers. I told her actors can't be timid when talking to people because they never know who they'll be up against. She went along and had a great time meeting and talking with new people.