Who do we want our children to become? Brain surgeons? Presidents? DJs?
What do we hope and pray they will avoid? Drugs? Scientology? A deep-seated fascination with trains, and train schedules?
I have two snapshots in my head from last Sunday:
One: After a pretty but very windy hike, we ended up (again!) in the Austrian-Slovakian border town of Hainburg, with two hours to kill before our train back to Vienna. So we went to the town Cultural Museum and—whoa!—the exhibition was all old synthesizers, Theremins and “Klang Maschine”! I was in heaven, looking at all these scuffed up, ridiculous boxes, from an Ondes Martinet to a Mellotron, which have enlivened the musical stylings of everyone from Emerson, Lake and Palmer to Daft Punk. But I felt a stir of pleasure when Adinah and her friend Teresa grabbed a set of headphones and started twiddling the knobs of a homemade LFO oscillator. ‘She’s making a beat!’ I thought, beaming with pride.
How cool would it be if my daughter became the kind of musician that I love (and wanted to be myself?)
Two: Once we were back in Vienna, Anette, Adinah, V., and I clambered aboard the last streetcar home. But we had to step around three inebriated punks and their gigantic, dirty dogs. One of the pink Mohicans was sprawled across the floor of the train. Then, with much drunken bellowing and stumbling, they all got off. I don’t know if the girls even noticed them, but Anette and I did.
Once we were back home, in the kitchen and making dinner, she mentioned it, and said she hopes neither of our girls ends up like those punks.
I flashed back on my own dyed blue-black, occasionally inebriated days, and thought, ‘Gee, there’s a lot worse things that could happen to our daughters.’ But I took her point.
Mind you, these are just snapshots. And all I have is more questions.
How can you really steer your kids the right way? Can you steer them at all?
I distrust parents who push their kids, and project their own ambitions onto their children. (But I do the same thing.) I’m skeptical that we can groom them to be model citizens, or prevent them from becoming doctors or lawyers.
Look, here’s what I want:
1) I want my girls to like themselves.
2) I want them to be okay with being alone (sometimes.)
3) I want them to feel like they can do (almost) anything.
4) I hope they can laugh (at themselves, too.)
5) I hope they will try to do the right thing. Maybe I can teach them something about this, though I may come up short on offering Standard Operating Procedures.
6) I hope they will learn to be kind, be kind, be kind.
Other than that, I have no expectations. Honest.