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Dr. Sarah, Part 2

June 19, 2010

Thank you so much for replying to my post yesterday.

The story left off where Sarah announced to the table that she wants to be a doctor and go to Africa to help people when she grows up.  I didn’t reply to her right away, but I remember feeling pride.  (And, of course fear.  The snakes alone in Africa talk me out of going there, and the insects?  Geez.)  But before I could say anything, someone else replied, “Africa?  I bet there are people right here who need your help!”

It was just a little thing.  Not really inappropriate.  I am sure some people wouldn’t have batted an eye at this response.

I didn’t know what to say at first.  But then my mouth opened and I said something about joining Doctors Without Borders and how cool that would be.  In the car, on the way home, Sarah announced that she didn’t want to go to Africa.  She couldn’t tell me why, other than, “I just don’t want to…”  It made me shake my head.

I realize that she is only eight (almost nine) and she is just exploring her life right now.  She really doesn’t know what she will end up pursuing as a career.  It may very well be true that she will pursue being a doctor, or she may end up being a rock star, we just don’t know yet.  So, I am not thinking about this literally, but abstractly.  One small phrase altered the way she framed her dream.  I guess it is the background of this phrase that is unsettling to me.  I have the context, which I am not sure I have articulated.  This person has strong opinions about America.  Strong Nationalism.  Strong negative opinions about people who are different, especially culturally.  So this seemingly benign phrase was loaded to me.

I wish it would have been Jamie who had replied to Sarah’s announcement.  I loved how she would have asked her what connections she had with Africa.  I would love to hear that answer.  I loved how she accepted her dream and validated it.  Not that this person didn’t reply in a positive way.  It was said very positively and encouragingly.  I am sure this person would be thrilled that Sarah changed her mind, however.

I know I have written about my strong belief that everyone has the right to their own opinion.  That the extreme opinions out there are what help us stay on middle ground.  But, when it comes to my kids, all bets are off.  I don’t tell my kids how to think, or who to like.  I try to teach them compassion and kindness.  When we have an election we talk about the candidates in general terms stating the philosophies and beliefs of each candidate.  Only when I am asked, do I tell my children who I plan to vote for.  I want them to make up their own mind.  Same with their futures.  I want them to think for themselves and follow their own passions.  Even if one of them decides to go to Africa where the snakes drop down from trees to eat you.  (I am sure there are precautions.)

I am trying not to dwell on this, because it is guaranteed that Sarah has forgotten all about it by now.  It is just a thorn in my side.  I know I can’t protect my kids from other people’s opinions.  I know I don’t want to tell them how to think.  It makes me angry that other people have no problem telling my kids how to think, and that my kids are so easily swayed.

How would you have handled this?  Am I obsessing too much about a passing conversation that nobody else that was there even noticed?  Why is it stuck in my craw?  Ugh.

  1. June 20, 2010 10:20 am

    I get where you are coming from I think. I worry about the things I do and say, as well as others. It’s hard to see how things are affecting our children when they are so close. My oldest is 12 now and sometimes I get a bit panicky that every comment or decision I make is going to be a deciding factor in the direction her life turns. Or worse, that I’ve already laid a foundation for her to go in a certain direction, one where she won’t be happy, and I don’t even know about it, and there is nothing I can do about. I remember moments in my childhood that may not have even been a big deal, but they made an impact. Even in my 20’s, trying to pick a major and figure out what I was going to do, some of the choices that interested me were shelved because of one person’s input.

    We want the BEST for our kids! What I try to remember when is that I don’t have much control over the direction their lives are going to go. I believe in free will, not fate, but I also believe that if our children are meant to do something, nothing will stop them. Maybe those comments threw me off back then because those truly weren’t the best choices for me. If they were the best choices for me, nothing would have deterred me.

    You sound like such a great mom, I try to do the same for my girls. I think if Sarah is passionate about going to Africa, she will. If a comment like that throws her, maybe it wasn’t the best choice for her. You have a lot of influence, and can throw Dr.’s Without Borders literature around to make sure she has all the info. But you’re right, she is young. It sounds like she has a mom and a drive that will help her find her passion and help others no matter what choice she makes.

  2. June 21, 2010 9:39 pm

    Thank you Sara. I think you are right. If decisions are made because of a casual comment, maybe it is not what is supposed to happen at that time. And if it is supposed to happen, nothing will stop them. I just get so sensitive about off handed remarks from certain people because I read into the meaning. I can almost see the context around their words, and I don’t like the context. It is not what I value, so then I get angry if it affects my children. I am just too sensitive when it comes to this. I read WAY more into it than I should. Thank you for taking the time to work this out with me. I really appreciate it!

  3. June 21, 2010 9:49 pm

    i’m glad it was helpful..and i get what your saying. i have people that do that to me too, it’s hard to explain. and when it comes to the kids, the mama bear in me comes out :)

  4. Jamie Fisher permalink
    June 22, 2010 4:40 pm

    Those are good points. Gotta tell ya, I was so aggravated when I read that post I had to chill–I really wanted to just spout off!!! Mama Bear is just how I feel…+ I’m a big sister & oldest child so I have to control everything, of course! She does sound like a strong girl, so a challenge to her perspective should have a beneficial effect–strengthen it or give her pause to re-evaluate. You’ll have to remember this–wonder what 20 years from now will look like?!

    • June 22, 2010 9:43 pm

      I am kind of glad that you were aggravated too, it makes me feel less crazy. I know, I wonder how my kids will be when they’re grown up all the time. I hope they don’t need too much therapy :)

  5. June 22, 2010 9:45 pm

    Oh man. I would be upset, too.

    What I love is that Sarah wants to be a doctor because she thinks it’s interesting. Because she wants to help people – people who need help desperately. I would try to find a moment to praise or encourage that generosity, and to gently point out that it’s important not to change your dreams in order to please other people.

    DUDE. The whole situation makes me mad WITH you.

    • June 24, 2010 11:38 pm

      Thank you Sam. I was mad, but held on to reality. I think this whole thing happened and I was the only one who registered it. And, really, I still am kind of mad, but I am letting it go. Yes. Letting go. Not obsessing. At All.

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