Sunday, June 19, 2016
The Girl startled me this weekend, without meaning to.
We were visiting The Wife’s parents on Saturday, so we could spend some Father’s Day - related time before doing our own on Sunday.
The Girl has long intended to become a veterinarian when she grows up. TW and I fully endorse the goal, and have encouraged her. But this weekend she announced that she had changed her mind. She’d rather go into politics.
Between “Hamilton” and the presidential election, she has become a politics fiend. (She and I agree that “...and Peggy” is one of the saddest lyrics ever.) She has a pretty consistent ideological starting point, even on issues she’s encountering for the first time. And she’s excited about the first woman president.
Looking back, the signs were there. She watched presidential debates all the way through (albeit on DVR delay until the next afternoon) until the Republicans started going R-rated. She joined the Debate team at school this year, and quickly established herself as a force to be reckoned with, even as a sixth grader. She can parse the first “Cabinet Battle” between Hamilton and Jefferson with surprising subtlety. She demands explanations for every denied request, and often explanations for the explanations.
Still, I was hoping she’d stick with veterinarian, or maybe some other medical something.
I have to take some of the blame. I encouraged her to join Debate, and even volunteered as a judge at several of her tournaments. (I never judged a round in which her team participated.) I don’t have the athletic chops to help her much there, but I was able to help her with her public speaking and reasoning skills. We talk politics at home sometimes, and even watched the first few debates as a family. And I’ve encouraged her -- not that she needed it -- to think for herself and reach her own conclusions. Admittedly, that’s sort of like encouraging the sun to rise in the East, but still.
Fascination with politics is an inheritance I didn’t mean to pass along. I wanted her and her brother to be aware of politics, and to be involved as citizens, but also to find other ways to make a living. Her brother seems pretty focused on med school, which is great. But The Girl, bless her, is her father’s daughter. Some of the habits of mind are the same.
For Father’s Day, each kid made me a card. TB did a Rubik’s cube entirely out of paper, spelling out “Happy Father’s Day, Dad” on the sides. TG did a top ten list of things she likes about me. One of them was that I like to talk politics.
Sigh. You never know what they’ll pick up on. The Boy has commented more than once that we barely drink at all. He’s right, but I was struck that he noticed. They’ve both mentioned that our family habit of eating ice cream out of coffee mugs is so well-ingrained at this point that it feels weird to be at someone else’s house and eat it out of bowls. I’ve been using coffee mugs that way for so long that sometimes I forget that it’s weird. It’s actually quite practical: coffee mugs are built for extreme temperatures, are the perfect size, and have handles. On that one, I like to think we’re just ahead of our time.
Some inheritances are more deliberate and/or more clearly positive. My Dad used to take my brother and me to minor league baseball games in Rochester, and those stand as favorite memories of time with him. For Father’s Day this year, the gang took me to a Lakewood Blue Claws game; we even got to play catch on the field afterwards. If the inheritance of a love of minor league baseball gets passed on, I’d be completely fine with it. If they inherit my relatively dogmatic sense of Italian food, I’d be fine with that, too.
One inheritance I take from my Mom is a clear sense that the purpose of parenting is to help the kids become independent, functional adults. I’m happy to keep that one, and hope to pass it on. They’re both well on their way, and I’m insanely proud of both of them.
The interest in politics? It could be worse, I guess.
They’ll likely change their minds about career goals repeatedly, and that’s fine. It’s just striking to see something that you try to downplay taken up enthusiastically as an inheritance. You never know what they’re going to notice.