Mar 31, 2011
Image of graduates from 123rf.com. Captions added by the author

It’s graduation season. My second son graduated from High School a few days ago. Parents and brothers were all happy and proud to see Enrique march to get his diploma and medal. Congratulations to all the graduates and their families who are all in this achievement together!

After high school graduation comes college, a preview to the real world. This time students are given more opportunities to exercise their freedom to choose: which college/university to go to, what course to take up. This is the time when they prepare for their chosen field, to prepare and fulfill their “When I grow up I want to be…” or in the vernacular, “Paglaki ko gusto kong maging…”

In my generation a lot of children went through a stage of “When I grow up, I want to be a doctor!” or “When I grow up, I want to be a lawyer!” I hear that today the newer versions are “Paglaki ko gusto magtrabaho abroad!” or “Gusto ko maging artista!”  I actually heard a little girl say, “Gusto ko maging Sex Bomb Dancer!”

When I was a young girl, I remember saying, “When I grow up I want to be a doctor.” Then it had a mini detour but it was still related, “I will be a scientist.” Maybe because I wanted to immortalize my name like the scientists whose names I would memorize when I prepared for my Science tests – Alexander Grahambel (inventor of telephone), Thomas Edison (inventor of light bulb), Madame Marie Curie (inventor of radioactivity) and many more.  But I said to myself, “If I discover a disease, I’m not going to call it my name followed by the word syndrome, no way!” Then later on when I started becoming “pilosopo” I said, “When I grow up I want to be a lawyer.” However, when I reached my senior year in high school, I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to be anymore. I even considered taking up Hotel and Restaurant Management because at that time I liked being in hotels, I loved the high ceilings, the beautiful chandeliers, the fresh flowers in the big lobby, lovely bathrooms. But I realized that I wanted to be a hotel guest and not a hotel worker. Believe it or not I took up A.B. Economics not fully knowing what it was about. I just copied the course of my oldest sister.

That’s why it amazes me when I see high school students (take note not grade school because grade schoolers seem to know better when it comes to their ambition compared to their high school counterparts) who really know what they want to be when they become adults.

My boys also went through different phases in their “gusto ko maging.”   Marty, my oldest, who was inspired by some of his admirable teachers in grade school once said, “I think I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”  Enrique, my second who had just listened to a firefighter talk about his job in his school, came home excitedly exclaiming, “Mama, I will be a firefighter when I grow up!” Anton, my third, at one point said, “When I grow up, I want to be a carpenter because I want to build beautiful houses and tall buildings. Mommy, I will build you a vacation house and I will only charge you one peso!” Those were years ago and their ambitions have changed so many times.

As for me, I just welcome their passion. I do not discriminate.  (Well maybe because no one has ever declared “I want to be a drug lord!” or any other similar profession). Over the years my sons’ ambitions change because the things that interest them change – from reading to dancing to producing shows and parties to playing the guitar and piano to composing songs to counseling friends to cooking to baking to video-making to playing basketball, table tennis, volleyball, skateboarding to writing journals to photography.  What is important is we expose them to different things while growing up and help them develop their strengths and not pay too much attention on their weaknesses. Just be aware of them, try to improve but don’t sweat about them.

As they got closer to college, it became more challenging for them to choose what to pursue. We now have two sons who have chosen their college course and university. Based on experience the parents are still the biggest influence. We also arranged for them to talk to other people whose professions interest them. Of course, we cannot discount the influence of friends, teachers and the internet! Hopefully, all these helped them understand their strengths and passion allowing them to choose the right course and most importantly, to follow their calling.

I still come across parents who try to influence their children to take the course that will pay them well even if the course does not interest the child at all. A few years ago a lot of parents convinced their daughters (or even sons) to take up nursing because nurses were supposed to earn well abroad. Unfortunately, this phenomenon brought about the oversupply of nursing schools, a lot of them substandard, and we are now experiencing an oversupply of nurses. On the other hand, some parents discourage their children to pursue professions that they think will not pay well.

The truth of the matter is we will never know what profession or business will do well by the time our children enter the work force. But we do know that success happens to people who deliver something great. They are able to turn something ordinary into something extraordinary. And usually this happens because they enjoy what they’re doing and are passionate about it. All the books I’ve read about successful individuals say that they are following their passion which made them successful and rich! And most of the time their passion is deeply rooted in their childhood.  So let us pay close attention to our children’s passions while they are growing up.

Of course allowing our children to follow their passion is easier said than done. Let’s say your son wants to play the guitar and sing. So what does he put in his choice for college course? Should he take up music? How many musicians really get the break anyway? How many pub houses will you allow him to perform in before you say, “Honey, that’s enough, you better find a serious job that will give you a steady cashflow”? It’s hard to say. 

But I think one thing that we can do to appease ourselves and allow our children to follow their passion is to teach them how to be financially intelligent. It may sound daunting to parents especially if they’re not finance people. But really, everyone has to be at least financially literate. It’s one thing that every person needs to know, just like reading, writing and arithmetic because we all need to handle our own money eventually. 

So as early as possible, let us teach our children how to handle money, how to invest, so that no matter what profession they pursue, money will not be a problem. I know someone whose profession is teaching but is rich because he is one of the first franchisees of a big fastfood chain. So now he is a successful educator which I assume is his passion and a very rich one too!

Let’s go back to our hypothetical aspiring musician. If he knows how to handle his money, he will be conscious if his money supply will last him one month or one week. In that case, he will be able to handle his singing stints and he will know if he has to do some in between jobs just to replenish his dwindling money supply.

We started the financial education of our children very early by opening their own savings account as soon as they were born, teaching them how to budget and save from their allowance starting grade 1, and how to invest in different instruments. (For more of this, please read Chapter 6: Money Matters).

When my youngest was about ten he declared that he wants to become the youngest self-made billionaire in the Philippines. When we asked him how he will attain that, he said he didn’t know yet. One time it crossed my mind that he might set himself up for disappointment. But I was not about to douse his lofty dream. I said to myself, “If I supported him when he wanted to be a carpenter, why shouldn’t I support him now that he wants to be a billionaire?” Then I read somewhere that setting a goal and not knowing exactly how to get there is okay because it is like driving. You know your general direction, but you can just see a few meters of the road. But as you drive on, you will see the rest of the road until you get to your final destination. During a party when Anton mentioned that he wants to be the youngest billionaire in the country in front of some relatives, a not so encouraging uncle exclaimed, “That’s impossible!” I was surprised how an adult can be so insensitive to an optimistic youngster. After the party, I asked my son how he felt about that comment. I was happy to note that he was undaunted by that remark. 

            For Marvin, my husband, the sweetest ambition that he heard our sons say is this, “When I grow up I want to be like Papa, successful in his career and still spends time and plays around with his family.”  He said that this is his true measure of success.

In A Nutshell: Let us support our children in pursuing their dreams. If we are worried about the financial outcome of their dreams, teach them financial literacy early on. Remember that their passion, which is usually rooted in their childhood, will propel them to succeed.

Let Us Share: Share your children’s dreams and how you help them attain those dreams. Other parents will definitely learn something from your stories.

Thank you and happy parenting!

Rose Fres Fausto