What will the kids be when they grow up?

Published 5:11 pm Saturday, November 16, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

“When I was just a little girl I asked my mother, what will I be? Will I be pretty? Will I be rich? Here’s what she said to me.”

Whoa. Hold on.

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Those are the options? Pretty or rich? Neither possibility automatically depresses me, but I’d like to think there’s more out there for a grown-up girl besides a button nose and plenty of cash.

“Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be.”

Excuse me, just one more second. I’m not sure I like where this is headed.

“The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera.”

Oh, to heck with that noise.

I was singing that old standard to my daughters, Gertie and Clara, while they took their bath the other night. I’ve sung it a million times to myself, but this time the lyrics stopped me short.

“Girls,” I explained, “you have choices. You make your future. Pretty is fine, and there’s nothing wrong with a healthy bank account, but the world is wide. There are many other Doris Day songs on which to base your priorities and goals.”

In response, Clara placed her rubber ducky on her head, and Gertie passed a little gas, nothing to worry about, just a bubble. Sorry if that’s too graphic, but that’s the kind of gritty, slice of life realism you get here, friends.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Clara and Gertie’s future. The older they get the more they’re handing out hints about who they are and who they may become. It’s hard not to leap to conclusions, jump to expectations, stretch your hopes, and end up exhausted and confused.

Gertie is into music. In fact this morning she was playing her tambourine on Clara’s head. She could become a great orchestra conductor, I thought as I placed an ice pack on Clara’s pulsing forehead or she could wind up being a cage fighter.

Clara recently picked up a pencil between her thumb and index finger with such delicate precision I knew immediately she would become a famous surgeon or a safe cracker. She also loves to dance with abandon and a complete lack of tempo. I don’t want to come right out and say the child has no rhythm, but no one’s going to mistake her for the next Cyd Charisse. Thank goodness she has her medical career or that last big heist to fall back on.

The DVD player is no match for my Gertie. She knows how to load discs, play discs, the whole shebang. I’m fairly sure she’ll be a filmmaking wunderkind, or she’ll move into my basement when she’s 25 and spend the next 10 years watching movies and eating Doritos.

I see Clara desperate to talk, making all kinds of noises as she tries to find the words to tell me how she feels, and I think, she’ll be a great orator. She’ll influence her generation with her ability to articulate the big ideas that change the world, or she’ll be a master of the long con, bilking millions from people with nothing more than verbal bamboozle.

Avoiding preconceptions is tough. Of course I wonder what Clara and Gertie will do with their lives, but I can’t make them be something or make them not be what they are. All I can do is provide them every opportunity to discover their interests and talents and understand that my fixed notions and unwitting manipulations will avail them and me with little more than false starts and wasted time.

Somehow I will learn the difference between a guiding hand and a clenched fist. Maybe I will sing “Que Sera Sera” and believe that whatever will be will be. Maybe I could stand to “let go and let Doris.” But I’d definitely have to rework those lyrics a bit.

Perhaps tonight I’ll try …

When they were only little girls, I asked my daughters, what will you be? Will you be happy? Will you find your niche? Here’s what they said to me. Que sera, sera. Whatever will be, will be. The future is ours you see. Que sera, sera. We will find our glee.

Do you think I could get Doris Day to record it for them?


Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.