“I think I know what I want to be when I grow up, mommy,” she announced.
Her grin was wide, her enthusiasm palpable. Her whole body vibrated with her excitement. An earthquake for one. A force of nature.
Three years ago, she wanted to clean up dead squirrels off the streets. Last year, she swore she wanted to be a cashier’s at Ralphs.
They say that the mark of good parents is when they succeed in making a better life for their children than the one they themselves had. I have pretty big shoes to fill. My parents, both 6th grade dropouts have nevertheless managed to educate their three girls all the way to graduate degrees.
They walk around with their inflated chests and tell anyone who’d listen all about the latest successes of their pharmacist, behavior analyst, economist daughters. I want me some of that.
It’s a tall order, being the parent of a smart child. One look into my baby’s big, brown, intelligent eyes and I knew I had my work cut out for me. On me befell the burden of making her life as magnificent as I could muster. For my only child, only the sky would be the limit. The tug of war between letting her be who she wanted to be and aspiring, for her, to rake in the highest academic achievements eventually erupted into a burning, yearning, active volcano in my chest, hounding me, causing sleepless nights full of worry and optimism.
My precocious 5th grader has not yet disappointed me. She matured from a perpetual mirror-gazer to a talented drama student, from doodler to storyteller, from finger-counter to a straight-A math lover. I have big dreams for her. BIG. Dreams I hope she’ll pursue, for her sake and mine.
Plus, I’m not paying for an expensive private school, tri-lingual education so she could bag groceries for the rest of her life. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But, still.
“What is that, baby?” I asked her cautiously.
I held my breath, expecting the worst.
“I want to be an architect! You know, it’s all about making buildings and calculations. I love building things. And I love math.”
She proceeded to show me a building she drew with an app on the iPad. It had a fancy fence, colorful walls, a running waterfall. Inside, she even had a fireplace. Because every office building needs a fireplace, silly.
“That’s wonderful, baby. I think you’ll make a great architect.”
I turned away to hide my beaming face.
Screw the volcano.
She'll be fine.