When I started off as an undergraduate student I was determined to tackle the field of medicine. So I majored in biology. I did so because it was what I wanted to do. I wasn't forced. And even after deciding to change my major, my mother, with some reluctance, grew to accept my choice to go into a field that offered way less money than medicine.
That wasn't the story for some classmates. When I went into freshman seminar one day we were split into groups. We were trying to identify what careers fit us best based on our personalities. To my surprise, or maybe because I secretly wanted to be more artsy, I was placed in a group with people that scored higher for art careers. While in the group, a fellow classmate discussed how he only majored in biology because his father told him he had to. His father was a doctor and was pushing for him to become one too. His father had decided, in spite of having a son that was very talented at drawing, and had absolutely no interest in medicine, that he would not fund his education if he majored in something other than a science. I thought it was one of the most ridiculous things I had heard. How could you force your child to choose between a passion and your namesake? How could you push them to be you?
As I grew older, and became a parent, I saw his father as less of a villain. Not to say he became a hero. But I could better understand parents' reasoning for pushing their child or children to go into careers with prestige. It's not uncommon for parents to want their child or children to follow in their footsteps; especially when those footsteps have led to success. And let’s be honest, for those of us that have children, who can resist an opportunity to discuss what they're up to next? Even if we're not doing it for the sake of bragging we like to let people in on what's happening with our children. Sometimes.
Some of us, not all of us, have an inkling to see ourselves in our children. I'm guilty of this myself. When my children were born there was a piece of me that wanted to see myself in them; for them to look like me, to behave the same way I did as a child (on days when I was behaving well of course). I wanted to see my own existence in them. Then one day, it occurred to me, that in order for me to see this in my children, to want this in my children, I would have to cheat them out of being who they are, who they were meant to be. As much as we want to see our achievements shine through in them, to force them to live our lives, no matter how well they are going, would mean a slice of their individuality, their personality, that little thing that makes them who they are, would have to be pushed aside.
I am all for parents encouraging their children, and pushing them when they see they have the potential to go far, but I can't help but to feel badly for children when they are living the life of their parents' choosing. Sometimes it's out of fear of not wanting our children to make the same decisions, to live their lives struggling. And sometimes it's because it sounds good to say, "My child is a doctor just like me." Even when that feeling only exists because our children want to see us happy, or rather, pleased with their decisions.
Sometimes our children do not have the same desire to be what we have chosen to be, or to do what we have chosen to do. And it's simply because our children are not us. Regardless if they have the same temper, are as equally stubborn, or look like carbon copies of us, they are not. And unfortunately we sometimes just have to accept it. When we create a path in life it's not always so someone else can follow it. Our paths, on occasions, are for generations after us to reference. Although I like the path my life is on, I wouldn't want my children to follow it. I want them to see what I have done and to forge their own path. No matter how many times they veer off of it, no matter how many times they go back to start, I want them to create a road map that spotlights them, not me. If my children get nothing else out of what I have done with my life I want them to understand two things:
It's more important that they learn who they are and what they want versus who I think they are and what I think they should want.
They can follow my path, in the exact same order, or, they can take the scenic route and go where I have been too afraid to go and dare to test limits in places where I have typically played it safe. All while getting to the exact same place or further. I hope they choose the latter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Latanya Muhammad is an educator, group facilitator, and 100% a wife and mom. If you would like to read more of her posts visit www.shetanagain.com. And if you want to weigh in on the action? Feel free to direct all feedback and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. See ya'!