My kids have struggled to understand what I do for a living. The few times they have been with Erica when she picks me up from the RAPID station has led them to think that I ride a train all day long. I’m sure their exposure to Thomas the Tank Engine has had a part to play in that. But there have been times I’ve had to explain why I leave in the morning, or why I won’t be there when they wake up and it usually ends with quizzical faces and abrupt endings to conversations.
I try to start on common ground, “You know your preschool teacher, Miss N.?”
Eating candy? Is that my work?
“I’m like her. I’m a teacher.”
“You are?” she says with surprise.
“Yes, except I teach adults.”
“Oh.” She’s looking up now at the ceiling, probably envisioning me singing “rise and shine and welcome to school today…” with a room full of adults, just before I pass out snacks and read them a story. “What’s my work?” she finally asks.
“Well, cleaning your room” I offer.
“Yeah, and eating candy? Is that my work?” She had to ask, since she was holding some candy in her hand at the moment.
“Yes, and obeying mommy or daddy, and being kind to pax”
“And is having fun my work?”
I can’t argue. She’s right. Eating candy and having fun is her work right now. I guess that’s what childhood is all about. Enjoy it while you can.
Then yesterday she started talking about something she saw on Curious George (who says TV is bad for kids?) something about a circle or a curve and then a hole and a line with a flurry of hand motions. A wrench! Unfortunately, I don’t have one like she saw on TV so now she wants one for her birthday. Yes, that’s exactly what I would have thought to buy my five year old. A wrench set. But you should see the look on her face when she talks about getting one. She needs it to fix her bike (there’s nothing wrong with her bike, but this is another Curious George reference.)
Then, as I lay her down inside her Barbie castle tent for bed, I tell her that some people fix things for their work. She replied with an amazed, “They do?” I could tell this was really exciting to her by how intensely she asked that question. I explain that they fix cars (no reaction) so I quickly add bikes and she asks, “and motorcycles?”
“Would you like to do that when you grow up?” I didn’t even need to ask, but I did just for fun. An enthusiastic “Yeah!” let out just as mommy walked into the room to say good night.
“Hey, tell mommy what you want to do when you grow up.”
“I want to fix cars and bikes and motorcycles!”
But what was truly precious to me was her reasoning behind wanting this profession. Her own explanation as to why: “So I can help people, because it’s not nice to not fix things.”
So, if anyone is looking for a good mechanic in about twenty years just let me know. I know of a good one that will fix your car and melt your heart, all at the same time.