Kitchen Table Talk

Sherri Gardner HowellFarragut

It’s back-to-school time in the South, and the parks, splash pads and neighborhoods are pretty empty while the football stadiums are filling up.

For those of you with seniors, my heart goes out to you. Senior years – be it first child or fifth – can be tough for moms. Not only does it mark the beginning of a parental transition, it comes with its own deadlines and stress-filled decisions.

I remember so well my first-born’s senior year in high school. He had been an obnoxious pain for most of his junior year. Over the summer, however, Mr. Hyde had turned back into Dr. Jekyll, and I knew sending him off to college was going to be tough after all.

I worried because the decisions that stretched out in front of him seemed to envelop life choices that he had not spent a lot of time pondering. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” hadn’t been a topic of conversation since he outgrew the “race car driver” phase.

Now, seemingly overnight, there were college courses to plan, career tracks to identify and majors/minors to consider. While no one says “undecided” is unacceptable or that a college major determines the rest of your life, it is preferable to have a road map.

Jumping into this quagmire turned out to be a time of revelation for mom and sons. Listening to them outline their dreams in response to my questions taught me more about them than I had learned in years.

Turns out our 18-year-olds are different people from the 8-year-olds we knew so well. While we roll merrily along with the knowledge that little Joey has always wanted to be a teacher, Joey has decided to be a computer analyst.

Very, very often, however, our rising seniors just don’t know what they want. If this is your child, help him or her focus. Moms are good at figuring out where their children’s hearts are.

Some of the questions we played with:

  • Describe a really good Monday for your 25-year-old self.
  • Do you see yourself going to an office with structured hours?  Do you want to come home every day or does traveling excite you?
  • Do you see yourself enjoying business meetings with people asking your thoughts or out on your own, doing your work at your own pace?
  • Where does your income potential rank in your priorities?
  • If you want to work for an established company, do you like big, with multiple opportunities to grow and move up or small, with less room at the top but more opportunities to try your ideas?

If you need a jumping off point, Princeton Review has a pretty good quiz that lists a lot of careers in each interest level:

Enjoy the new school year, no matter what grade your children are embracing. It will go by all too fast!

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