When my husband and I were getting married, we heard that, sure, we were in love now, but just wait a few years.
When we had our first child we heard that she’s cute now, but just wait until she’s a teenager.
Twenty-four years of marriage and I’m still waiting.
My daughters are now 21 and 17, and I’m still waiting. Okay, not really. Because the truth is, I understood going into this whole family business that there would be challenges. But I never doubted that I’d want to meet them. I decided early on to ignore the naysayers.
But it seems that this negative “you just wait” approach to life’s major transitions persists. For instance, my oldest wants to pursue a career in publishing, and when she went on interviews the majority of the professionals told her: “Why would you want to pursue this career?” Then proceeded to tell her what was wrong with her choice. When my youngest approached the nurses at the hospital where she volunteers to ask for their advice about a career in health sciences, they said, “Why would you want to pursue this career?” Then proceeded to tell her what was wrong with her choice. In both cases the message was clear: I hate my job and you will too, so why even bother? It seems a little mean-spirited to me.
Now, I’m not Pollyanna, but I don’t think that the best approach to a young person’s pursuits and dreams, whether it be marriage, child-rearing or a career, is to squash them. We were all young once, filled with the belief that the future was ours. I know there are those who see the glass as half empty. Maybe some believe they’re trying to save a younger person from the mistakes they’ve made. But if so there’s a kinder, gentler way to go about it.
I’ve been teaching college journalism classes for 10 years, a decade during which my field has struggled to redefine itself. Through it all, I go out of my way to give my students job-search strategies for the current market and share new positions that can be open to them. In fact, whatever a student’s career choice, there are job opportunities not yet created, so I see it as an exciting time to be starting out in any field. Are there situations that are challenging and unfair? Absolutely. But who am I to tell a young person they can’t be successful?
Fortunately it’s rare for a couple in love to listen to bitter words about marriage, and those negative warnings about teenagers have never been good birth control. College students will still pursue the fields that most call to them. But I would prefer, at least those of you who will be speaking to my daughters, nieces and nephews, that instead of a gloomy outlook you deliver both the pros and cons as you see them in a compassionate way.
There is indeed wisdom that can be passed down through the generations. But as any parent should know, you’re more likely to get through to kids with a positive message. And that’s something worth waiting for.