"We seldom get into trouble when we speak softly. It is only when we raise our voices that the sparks fly and tiny molehills become great mountains of contention."
- - Gordon B. Hinckley
February 25, 2013
Work It Out
by Melissa Howell

My five-year-old recently informed me of his current “what I want to be when I grow up” list. It went like this:

"When I grow up I want to be a superhero, a buffalo saver, an owl saver, an astronaut, a police officer, a construction worker who drives a crane, a monster truck driver, and an artist."

Impressive list. I smiled when he shared it with me, and then tried to picture that huge-blue-eyed, freckle-nosed, sweet little boy as an adult. It’s always a tall order to fill, to imagine these littles as bigs. Yet always very humbling when I peer into my magical futuristic mothering ball and am once again reminded of all the things that will or might cross our paths in the coming years. Even now, with my oldest on the horizon of turning double digits, I am learning how easy and relatively simple the early years really are. Teething, sleeping through the night and temper tantrums pale in comparison to the thought of my kids entering middle or high school, dating, driving, preparing for missions and college and, well, their own lives. Parenting is another area where the “line upon line” adage applies perfectly.

In light of my job of helping them to find their futures and maximize their potential, what my kids don’t know is that while they dream of all the amazing things they think life will be like when they are grown up (I have long since given up trying to tell them that it isn’t always what’s it’s cracked up to be), I am secretly filling their young lives with knowledge and direction and ideas to help them on that path. It’s disguised as field trips, projects, books, activities, even Scouts, so as to appear fun. I’m sneaky like that.

Growing up, education beyond high school was never an “if,” but rather a “when” and “where.” Both of my parents have bachelor’s degrees; with college being an expectation, an underlying current that wasn’t forced but rather always an assumed option, I never doubted that any of my siblings or myself would obtain college degrees. And now, as the oldest of five children, I find myself the least educated; I have a bachelor’s degree, my two sisters either have a master’s in education or are working toward one, and both of my brothers have law degrees (the second to be received in a few short months).

I remember once, on the brink of high school graduation, discussing my future with my dad, and him telling me, “You can be anything you want to be. You could even be the President (of the United States)!” No thanks. But I did like knowing I had options, that I could consider my talents and desires, and then put my mind to just about anything and find some measure of success there.

As a mom now, I take very seriously my responsibility to: 1. teach my children the importance of work 2. help them find their interests, talents and hobbies, and how those might translate to successful careers and lives someday.

My oldest child had a rough day at school a few weeks ago and made a couple of poor choices, resulting in my husband and I having an impromptu meeting with the principal and a few of his teachers. For the next few days I mulled over what would be an appropriate consequence, and then settled on what I knew would be absolutely the right one: he loves to play and gets very frustrated by having to work. Therefore, I would take a part of his Saturday, normally his favorite day of the week, and fill it with work. In a half-day, he vacuumed the main level and the stairs; unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher; washed a bunch of dishes; swept the kitchen floor; scrubbed out the inside of the kitchen trash can; sorted and did a load of laundry; folded and put away clothes; washed walls and baseboards; scrubbed one bathroom; and hauled out trash. A few of these are his normal chores, many are not. He had a surprisingly good attitude and work ethic. I was reminded of the importance of work for curing what ails, and I hope he learned what President Hinckley taught about ‘forgetting about oneself and getting to work.” I know my son felt a real sense of accomplishment that day.

And when I notice one of my children discovering a talent or interest, I seize upon the opportunity to point out how it might help them down the road. “You like to design and build things – you might make a good engineer some day!” Or, “You are really good with words and tell wonderful stories. Perhaps you’ll be a writer when you grow up.”

I’m fairly certain no parent ever dreamed that her child would grow up to be addicted to playing video games, becoming so good at them he stays up all night playing and then can’t get to work in the morning, or that his child bounces from one minimum wage job to the next.

The problem, however, is that some parents simply don’t dream for their children, don’t teach them to set goals and work hard for them. This major oversight can have nightmarish consequences.

I love hearing any child dreaming about what they want to be someday. Even if for now “buffalo saver” is on the list.


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About Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell was born and raised in the woods of northern Minnesota. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota.

As a single 20-something, she moved to Colorado seeking an adventure. She found one, first in landing her dream job and then in landing her dream husband; four children followed.

Upon becoming a mother, she left her career in healthcare communications to be a stay-at-home mom, and now every day is an adventure with her husband Brian and children Connor (9), Isabel (6), Lucas (5) and Mason (2).

In addition, she is a freelance writer and communications consultant for a variety of organizations.

Melissa serves as Assistant director of media relations for stake public affairs and Webelos den leader

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