Flexible options

This afternoon, my daughter started a list of the companies where she would like to apply next year for her trainee placement. In France, the year before entering high school, pupils have to spend one week in a working environment where they could consider getting a job. It works as an introduction to the professional world.

Over here in the countryside, many kids will choose to take it easy and ask for one of their family members to have them. They’ll end up spending their week in the fields, or at the local supermarket. They don’t really see this as a fabulous opportunity to discover a new territory. Many will see it as a week away from school. Full stop!

My daughter sees it a free trip to space. In a good way.

She has started her wish list with the name of her favourite tv show – a satirical program which daily dissects the main international news. That’s her number 1 choice. Then come a number of newspaper (monthly magazines for teens, for surf fans, for feminists…). Then Unicef. The Ministry of Culture.

All along, I wondered if I should encourage or refrain her. What does the good mother should do? Should I push her to trust herself, to hope for the best, to believe everything is possible. Or should I start explaining life will soon become hell sometimes. But do you really tell a 14-year old that, contrary to what she thinks, sending 20 résumés don’t guarantee 20 interviews… or even 20 answers. Do you tell a 14-year old her CV will be piled with the others applications and only the kids whose parents know someone who knows someone who knows someone will get a chance to get in?


When I was slightly younger than my daughter my best friend was called Judith. Her house was humongous. The au-pair had her studio flat in the garden. The parents had a whole floor for them with a gigantic master bedroom and the dad’s office. The dining room was a cathedral-like veranda bigger than my house. The attic was a playroom. They had a phone on each floor, with different lines. During the summer, Judith was going to tennis camps in the States. During the week-ends, they’ll visit relatives who had a hunting manor… Judith’s Dad was one of the senior executives of one of the country’s biggest building and civil engineering companies.

I really liked Judith who was a kind girl. Very often, I slept at her house on Fridays because we didn’t want to split after school and wished to play some more. We also wanted to practice our 99 Luftballons moves as much as possible.

We were 10. And my mother never stopped repeating to me “You won’t stay friends forever you know. You come from two different worlds. It’s ok now because you’re children. But when you’re older…”

I have not seen Judith in 35 years. I’ve just looked her up on the internet. She is now a Sustainability Project Manager. She is married to a man with a fancy name belonging to a noble family. They have a daughter with an old fashion traditional name. Just like my mother predicted, we stopped seeing each other when Judith went to a private secondary school.


I guess, this memory has left a bitter taste in my mouth and I’ve always let my daughter believed nothing was impossible. No job was unattainable. No friend was too good for her. No life could never been dreamed of.

I envy her hopeful vision of the future and will not destroy it. Unfortunately I‘ve learned it is not all unicorns and sparkly paths. I’ve learned your best friends end up taking different routes sometimes, that I’ll never be a ballerina at l’Opéra de Paris, that I won’t spend my honeymoon in Tahiti, that I’ll never live in New York…

If Harry Potter had been told to stay within its remit and avoid setting goals which were too high, where would he be now? I want my daughter to believe as long as possible she can kick Lord Voldemort’s ass…

10 Comments

  1. I totally understand. I had parents who took little interest in my career prospects. I was sent to an awful school and given zero guidence.
    When I became a step mother, even though for a short time, I risked being honest and ploughed many hours in giving support and encouragement to mad ideas about career paths.
    Dreams are worth pursuing if you understand how to bring them into the real world. Now there are chances to do so much. Yes it’s great if you move in the right circles. So you need to try and do that. Ok some people are born to it, or pay to Get it, but if you head in the right direction you have a chance.
    We gave lessons in reality and how to deal with disappointment but ensured we aimed high and had a go for it attitude. Plan B and Plan C were always there but Plan A was always an option.
    And it’s never too late. At 52 years old I have moved to France to follow my dream of being an artist and designer. 34 years in finance was not my ambition..it was my parents and when I finally became a tax accountant…they were jealous of my independence. You can’t make people happy. Let life be the judge.

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  2. And also, I want her to stay dreamful as long as possible. Don’t you wish you were 14 again just to remember the feeling to have your whole life ahead, when everything seems possible. I hated being that age, but I do remember what it was like to ignore what my future would be like. At that age, there are so many things you don’t know yet… You have many many plans in your head, many imaginary possible lives, many options, many dreams.
    At 46, I still have dreams but I know some of them will stay dreams!

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  3. I think it is wonderful to have dreams and to pursue those dreams, but I told my kids to always have a Plan B, so that you can pay the bills if Plan A fails. My son ended up getting his first choice in work experience, to work as a sound engineer – he attended film shoots etc. This was only because I shot off a whole heap of emails because he had given up hope of getting something liek that. He loved the experience and it set him on a path of music for him. My other kids who have achieved ironically more than him in terms of dependable work and income, ended up completing a fairly ordinary work experience. In the end, it is up to them. We can only support them emotionally.

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