What should I tell my kids to do with their lives!

I want my kids to be whatever they want to be, let them dream, the sky’s the limit. Unfortunately, there is that little nagging thing called experience that rears its ugly head straining my more-positive outlook on their naive wishes.

“Yes!” I say with great enthusiasm mixed wit. “DO try to be a rock star!”

Then I mumble my sarcastic afterward: “Good luck with THAT.”

What’s wrong with me? In these moments, Fearless Mom steps aside for Paranoid Panicked Mom. I might subtly whip out the new Game of Life, then, and show them how college loans need to be repaid. Or that certain jobs pay higher than others.

Undoubtedly, unless I start playing the lottery or actually write the next “Hunger Games” or “Harry Potter,” my boys will have bills to pay. I know, sadly, that there is reality to contend with. So many fantasies are not financially prudent.

So, where does that leave us?

Do I cross my arms and shout a game-show-style “WRONG ANSWER” bleep through any fantasies my kids might have of being baseball players or rock stars or artists of any kind?

I do not. Instead, I offer up that they should pursue what they want to pursue, take their talents where they might naturally lead them, as far as they might lead them, even though disappointment and poverty are things every parent hopes to prevent.

That said, I guiltily admit to having steered fantasy a little more practical with leading comments like, “You could be an architect!” to Eli when he successfully built a fine Lego tower at age 3. I might have said sculptor, but architecture seemed like a safer bet.

Some more financially-focused friends in this affluent neighborhood have scoffed, though, at my enthusiasm over Eli’s continued interest in architecture.

“It’s not a very high-paying career, and it’s very competitive…” people have warned. It is all relative, I suppose. There is always more to make, easier things to achieve.

Is it the money my kids could potentially make that should concern me most about the interests they pursue, the careers they might consider? I’d like to snort and scoff and say that’s disgusting and wrong and totally stupid. But, then, money is an unfortunate necessity, the lack of it a reality check on many things they might want to do.

Since quitting my full-time job and going freelance (with a financial analyst husband to pick up the slack), I have been known to sit for long hours in cafes chatting with baristas and whoever should be foolhardy enough to walk into my vicinity. It is from that experience that I have learned just enough to be totally confused about how to guide my children. It seems that the financially solvent and the insolvent both face the demon dark side of having potentially made the wrong choice. Wall Streeters lament never having pursued their rock-star dreams — even though they might throw up at the thought of taking to the stage. And hard-pressed musicians — while they might never wish to work on Wall Street — definitely rue the assets the financiers have been able to muster.

The answer, I fear to say fearlessly, is that there is no answer to how to guide kids toward their eventual future. My children are lucky enough to be exposed to all kinds of careers, all kinds of opportunities. They are being raised with a sense of financial security I definitely did not have as a kid, and that may serve to push them toward money-making careers or, conversely, give them the freedom to try for things that are not nearly so safe. It is not up to me, and I try not to let my own paranoia dissuade or persuade them.

Kids need to be able to be free to find their own passion, as there can be no telling how the world might reward them if they put their best selves out there, in a way they see fit. Dreams are good things and manifesting them is always possible.

Still, I remember that I wanted to go to Northwestern, I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to live in New York. On cloudier days, I sometimes hear my mother’s advice.

“Be careful what you wish for,” she said, somewhat ominously. “You might just get it.”

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