It was a chilly Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and I was out in the city with my 16-year-old, high school junior. Earlier that afternoon, she sat in my apartment, far too close to a too-large TV, playing The Sims on the Xbox. She was doing what she loves to do most in that game, and just about every other kind of game online and off that she’s played since she was a toddler: naming people and changing their clothes.
As the older sister of the Vasquez family came to life on screen, my kiddo talked again about what college life at Temple University could be like, how she’d be close enough to home to still have me doing her laundry, and how exciting it’d be to go abroad to Sweden for a women’s studies curriculum as part of her social work major. She even asked if I really thought that she might actually have a class with Jaleesa Molina, a current freshman and her favorite player on the Temple Women’s Basketball team.
In between rose-tinted visions of her near future, my excitable daughter, who has famously changed her mind on the things she loves most in mid-sentence, also asked my opinion on the name Tabitha for the elder Vasquez Sims kid. I liked it, saying we could nickname her Tabs to go along with the younger Sim sister, Mags (short for Maggie). Mags and Tabs!
I’m trying something new to encourage my daughter to stick to something
I was now chanting it and she was feigning embarrassment even though no one else was around. No doubt these fictional character names, like her major, dream job, where she wants to live, and ‘all-time’ favorite bands will change many, many times between now and next weekend, but I’m trying something new to make her future stickier. I’m trying to leverage her newfound interest in the Temple Women’s basketball team to keep her focused on a few things she’s passionate about right now.
In the past, I would make similar investments of time and money in her fleeting passions, hoping that she’d find herself by finding something she loves doing and that maybe that would present a pathway toward a happy future.
There were packs of canvases and paints brought home from the local arts-and-crafts store so that she could express herself through art, far too many broken electronics carried into the house from neighbor’s curbside trash piles so she could tinker because at that time she loved sciences and understanding how things worked, and the countless hours I spent photographing the earrings and necklaces she and her sister made for their Etsy shop. Sadly, nothing stuck longer than a Band-Aid on a fingertip.
Years ago, Mallory went to a college basketball game with a friend’s family and enjoyed the squeak of the sneakers and the fast-paced action, and how the sport was radically different than the soccer that I often had on the TV at home. Since she’s been focused on going to Temple for social work for a surprisingly long time now, maybe six months or so, I decided to look up the women’s basketball team’s schedule as the new season was just getting started in the fall and asked my kiddo if she wanted to go to a game.
With tickets being just $10 each and lots of free street parking around the arena, the barrier to entry was low. By halftime of that game, she was hooked, had picked out a couple of favorite players (as had I), and was consulting the free pocket schedule to see when they’d next play a home game. Luckily, it was just a week away, the day before Thanksgiving.
In the meantime, as if the stars aligned, I found her an oversized Temple sweatshirt at the local thrift shop and because she loves thrifting and had a new love for Temple basketball. She was a beam of pure light when I gave her this like-new $12 find. To sweeten the deal, I took her to her favorite restaurant before tip-off for our second game, and that’s where the stars that were already aligned became radiant.
Our server encouraged my daughter to stick with social work
Our server was named Tabitha, Tabs for short — no lie — and she was so lovely in talking to my daughter, asking her what we were up to in the city that night.
In response to hearing from Mallory that we were headed to the Temple game because that’s where she wants to go for social work, Tabs glowed, leaned in close, and said directly to my kid,
A lot of people will tell you that social work is hard and doesn’t pay well, but I’m a family counselor during the day and I work with social workers all the time. We need you! The job is rewarding in so many ways and essential! Stick with it and you’re going to do great.
I’m a full-time writer, but I couldn’t have scripted a scenario like that!
Sadly, Temple lost in overtime to a local rival by 2 points that night, but ultimately both Mallory and I won a much bigger game. She asked for and got some more Temple garb for Christmas, including a sweatshirt with her favorite player’s #8 on the back, and we’ve been back to the arena a couple more times since.
There’s still a long way to go between now and the Temple University Class of 2029’s freshman orientation, but thanks to Aleah Nelson, Ines Piper, Tiarra East, Jaleesa Molina, and the rest of the 2023-2024 Temple Women’s Basketball team, I believe my once wishy-washy kid’s future is stickier and has more permanence than ever before.
My daughter has wanted at least two dozen things in her life
When I was young, I only ever wanted to be one thing, a chef who runs a charming bed and breakfast. In a roundabout way, I achieved that goal when I became a stay-at-home dad. Sure, I had the same two picky clients every single night for almost 15 years, but still, I was cooking, packing lunches, vacuuming, doing laundry, and making beds. It was a dream fulfilled.
Conversely, the youngest of those two guests, my daughter Mallory, has passionately, albeit briefly, wanted to be over two dozen things and is only just now narrowing her focus. Late last year, I had an idea to try to make her latest dream career, a Temple University graduate with a degree in social work, a little stickier.
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