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What if My Teen Doesn’t Know What He Wants to Be When He Grows Up?


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Written by Amy Dingmann of The Hmmm…schooling Mom.

As moms of older kids, we sometimes get caught up in worrying about teen apathy. We start to wonder when our older kids will step up, take responsibility, and figure out what they want to do with their life.

Right?

Yes, well.

To be perfectly honest with you, sometimes the desire for our kids to figure out their life plan—and our frustration with the fact they haven’t figured it out yet—is an entirely selfish thing. We all have this huge fear that our kids are going to experience a massive failure to launch. We imagine them running into the great beyond and, after tripping over their shoelaces, falling flat on their face.

And then what happens? (At least, what do we worry will happen?) Everyone will look at the kid who is flailing on the ground with dirt up their nose and scuffed knees – and then turn to stare at the mom.

Ermehgerd. What will the people think of the homeschooling mom if her kids become adults and can’t adult? If they have no huge aspirations to take over the world? If their life goal isn’t something that will make people stand up and take notice (or at least get their name in the local news publication)?

I mean, I can’t be the only mom with this secret, completely selfish fear.

Let me explain.

We were at the eye doctor recently, and during the exam, the doctor asked my oldest, “So what do you think you might want to do for work after you graduate?”

My son shrugged and mentioned something about searching for any job that would allow him to work the night shift because he’s not much of a morning person.

Great. Great. Your only aspiration in life is to work a job that doesn’t require you to wake up with the sun?

Gah. I’ll be here, hiding in the corner.

It’s fun to ask little kids what they want to be when they grow up because superhero and princess are totally acceptable answers. Little kids can rock an answer like that. But when you ask a teenager what their future plans are, you expect something a little more realistic. Something a little less Spiderman and a little more software developer.

[clickToTweet tweet=”When you ask teens about their future, you expect less Spiderman and more software developer.” quote=”When you ask a teen what their future plans are, you expect something a little less Spiderman and a little more software developer.”]

Now, there are some kids who know what they want to do with their life. Some kids know from the time they’re old enough to think about the future that they want to be a nurse or a teacher or a cop or a doctor. Or they want to fix cars or run a restaurant or sew costumes for a theater company.

But there are lots of other kids who just shrug their shoulders and mutter, “I don’t know.”

And it’s frustrating. Now, yes—sometimes they don’t know because they’re not taking the time to think about it, but more often than not, they don’t know yet because they really don’t know. They haven’t found that thing that really sticks out for them.

And so, as a mom, you wait. And. You. Wait. And you keep hoping that something will happen. Something will click. Something will inspire them to care.

And you’re hoping that this something happens before you’re forced to come up with really creative answers to counteract the raised eyebrow stares from a group of moms who are talking about their future nurse practitioners and mechanical engineers.

But here is the amazing thing, y’all. One day, it happens.

One day while you’re lost in the land of ohmywordmykidisnevergoingtofindthethinghewantstodowithhislife, it happens.

Something clicks. Something inspires them.

It happens.

And the crazy thing is that the thing might be something that’s totally outside your knowledge base. It might be something you were not directly involved in bringing into their life. It might be something that you’re thinking, um, where did this come from? It might be something you didn’t see coming or never would have thought your kid would be interested in as a career.

But it will hit, and it will hit hard, and you will know by the way their eyes light up that this – this is something.

The something.

It happened most recently to my oldest. The one whose primary aspiration was to work a job that started at 11 pm.

He wants to build custom guitars.

I mean….what? What the ever lovin’ what?

Did you even know there are luthier schools?

I didn’t.

(Did you just have to Google luthier? It means a maker of stringed instruments. Even spell check doesn’t think it’s a word.)

So now he’s in the garage with the band saw and the router and coming up with plans and designs and dreaming and imagining and all the things, you guys. Now, this kid is on fire.

It happened. He found his thing.

And looking back, you can totally put the pieces together. You can see how little bits of the puzzle finally fit. The kid who has done multiple shop projects for 4H and won champion ribbons. The kid who is really interested in graphic design but didn’t feel like graphic design was totally his calling. This kid who plays stringed instruments for hours a day – and critiques the set up and shape and contemplates how he would tweak them to make them better.

It makes perfect sense now, but you can’t see all of that from the other side. It only makes sense looking backward.

And when you see your kid figure this out, this thing where his eyes light up, and he says, “This is what I want to do”… do you know how that makes you feel as a mama?

Like the whole dang room is filled with onions. That’s what it feels like.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Provide your teens with opportunities to experience many different things, and be patient.” quote=”Provide your teens with opportunities to experience many different things, and be patient.”]

Have faith, mamas. It will happen.

It happens at a different time for every kid. But it happens. Provide them with opportunities to experience many different things, and be patient. You might be surprised how they will put it all together and what the package will look like when it’s done, but they will find their thing.

And it will be amazing.

Has your kid found his or her something yet? What is it?

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11 Comments

  1. And how many adults are actually doing a job they got a degree/studied for? I don’t know that many.

    I always told my seniors when I taught it was perfectly fine to be undeclared in major if they were going off to college. Half the time you’ll change or modify it anyway since you don’t have a lot of experience in what you think you might want to do.

  2. My oldest was public school, he knew what he wanted to do until he got to college and found out that studying and going to class to be what he wanted to be was harder than high school. So, flunked out. But continues his aspirations via youtube. He wants to be a special effects artists for movies. The problem is he has no motivation. He just lost job number 8 since flunking college 6 years ago. Yes, I am afraid he’s not going to make it, especially now that he sees working for Dominos Pizza and Wal-mart as his only options. At 25, we’ve learned we have to let him make his mistakes, and eventually he’ll learn that he has to work for it, he has to be motivated, it won’t be given to him.
    The bonus side is that the 3 still at home, that we homeschool, are seeing this and learning from the oldest’s mistakes.

  3. We have a friend whose son went to a school in AZ to become a luthier. Maybe he can check that out. Thanks for the encouragement, we all need it!

  4. I went to school to be a luthier here in MN and although life did take another turn for me, I agree with him that it is a profession that sets you on fire and activates all your senses in the best way. Good luck to him!

  5. Luthier! I had the same experience when my son said he wanted to become a lapidary artist 🙂 Thanks so much for this article.

  6. I’m trying to be patient. I’m in waiting mode with my three ages 20,19 and 17. The oldest is really good with technical things(it comes naturally to him) but feels if he pursues an occupation in that field it might ruin his love for it. Arghhh! Mr. 19 yrs is definitely a hands on learner and would like to pursue carpentry but is too busy making money, as a farm laborer for his cousin, to pay for his hobby of restoring 2-cylinder John Deere tractors to take time for the courses. Miss 17yrs isn’t sure what to do but has traveled to France at age 15 to visit friends and most recently to Britain to visit cousins. She pays for and organizes this herself. She loves to be on the go. I am most concerned for the oldest at this point and keep praying he’ll find something before he gets too depressed watching everyone his age moving on and studying.

  7. What a blessing this article was to me! I have a nocturnal son as well and totally felt the pain on the eye doctor moment! 😉 Thank you for sharing.

  8. I absolutely needed to read this article. My junior in public high school has no clue what he wants to do but my freshman has some sort of plan. I needed to hear that I shouldn’t worry, because I am worried. 🙂

  9. I can so relate! I have a couple kids whose greatest desire would be to start life at noon and go from there. One son finally figured out, a few years after finishing college that being an electrician was his thing. Great. The youngest one – I am still hoping that the brilliant moment will come – sometime! Hopefully within the next couple of years. Since he is currently in high school!

  10. My husband and I decided that homeschooling finishes once they have their A.A. or A.AS degree. We consider this as the ‘capstone’ of their high school years, even though timing is beyond high school. While my eldest is still trying to figure out what direction he will go in, he has been working on his Associates Degree and is into his final two subjects. Our daughter (middle child) knew what she wanted to focus on with tertiary studies and went directly into a BA of Music Performance (about to complete 2nd year) and plans to continue onto an MA in Music Performance. The youngest is about to complete grade 12 and has the greatest struggles with study discipline. He will graduate high school, but mature enough to jump directly into college. He will continue into his AA or AAS via part time at a community college which we hope will progress into full time to complete. We believe that each of children is unique (from each other) and thus we must assess them individually (and not by standards of extend family members or society) and assist them as they learn how to discover their purpose. The boys are proving to be harder to figure out … much time on my knees in prayer … alternating with pulling my hair out in frustration (being real here).

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