My daughter has been asked several times this week what she wants to be when she grows up. She answered honestly, saying she doesn’t know and that she changes her mind all the time. Right now she thinks working in fashion sounds fun, perhaps as a personal shopper but who knows if that will be appealing later.
Of course lots of children don’t know what career path they might choose but, as with so many other things, as unschoolers we are scrutinized more closely for this. There is an implication that if we aren’t working toward the standard goal of society then we damned sure better choose an acceptable one for ourselves. I think this stems from the broader assumption that childhood isn’t part of the “real world” and it’s a time whose exclusive purpose is preparation for this future reality.
But the future is not a guarantee. And when it comes we have no idea what it will look like, what skills will have become obsolete or what impact certain choices will have. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, parenting does not come with a crystal ball. My decisions as a parent are not focused on what type of adulthood my kids may have, but on the type of childhood they are having right now.
Some misunderstand this and believe it to mean that I value my children’s current happiness over my own or worse yet over teaching them responsibility and I am “spoiling” them. But parenting for the life they have now doesn’t mean they always get their way. It simply means their thoughts and opinions are valued. They have input into how they spend their time but our lives don’t revolve around their whims. We don’t practice punitive parenting but that doesn’t mean we don’t talk to and guide our kids when we see them going astray. Our kids ask a lot from us, whether it be material things, favors or time. But they also know they won’t always get the things they want because other people have needs/wants too and everyone, even the wealthiest people in the world, have limitations of certain resources (counting time, energy and desire as resources) they have to work within.
I do think those lessons are valuable for adulthood. Valuing yourself, balancing your wants and needs with those of others, learning to handle conflict in positive ways, the ability to ask for what you truly want, the ability to accept that it may not happen right now. These are important skills that too many adults are lacking. But we don’t set out to teach our kids these things because it may be helpful in some foggy future. We help them learn these things because they are helpful in the very real present.