Saturday, May 14, 2011

Career Plans

Mister has taken an interest lately in the myriad career options available to someone of his amazing and diverse skill set. It started at the dentist a few months ago. He gave the hygienist the stink-eye as she reclined the chair and propped his knobby knees up under a pillow. He folded his arms and looked away when she asked him his name. But as soon as she was gone he turned to me and said, “When I grow up, I want to be a dentist.” I agreed that he would be a fantastic dentist, with his attention to detail and mechanical interests. I made a big deal of his announcement and asked him to repeat it at the dinner table for Dad.

Soon the career options began rolling out of his vivid imagination. Each day brought exposure to new people who do interesting things for work. Mr. Dave came and spent a few weeks tearing out gold-foil linoleum and installing new toilets. Mister decided he would build his own house. The Easter bunny delivered a train conductor suit. Cranes and bulldozers broke ground around the corner. The baby got an ear infection. Conductor, construction worker, doctor – the list of careers grew.

Some of the career choice announcements have had awkward timing. I took Mister with me to present at a conference. We drove with my colleague in his hybrid Honda, drinking tea from recycled plastic tumblers. As we talked about my colleague’s decision to become a vegetarian out of a need to align his academic interests in eco-criticism with his family’s carbon footprint Mister piped up from the back. “When I grow up I am going to buy a canon so I can kill some animals. I think we should kill a dad chicken and a mom chicken and a pig. And then we should eat them.” Gulp.

After a trip to the zoo he decided he wanted to grow up to be a cheetah. And a mama lion.

I love the flexibility of his mind. I love that he does not know that his choices (cheetah excluded) have competing academic programs that force young people into rigid, debt-loaded tracks. I love that he sees himself as smart and capable with hands that are ready to build. But the richness of his imagination is made even sweeter by the reality that I share the dreams of this precious son with another mother. Every time he adds a new job to his list of options I think of her and the short conversation we had almost three years ago next to the window that framed dilapidated shanties and shoeless children under a raw sun. I had asked her what she dreamed for this son and her answer was immediate and simple. “I want him to grow up to know God, get an education and do good and important work.” I had nodded and promised to do my best to feed his heart by a steady diet of prayer and opportunity.

And so when he began dreaming for himself about his future, I looked back. And prayed, asking God to whisper into her ear about the colors and textures of the dreams she first placed in his heart.

I tell him that I am proud of him.
I tell him he is able.
I tell him I love to hear about his plans.

And the other day, at a stop light, I turned around and told him that his beautiful dreams make his first mother proud too. “Yah,” he said quietly, tipping his chin up proudly as he turned to look out the window at a fire truck driving by.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

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