How Will Our Kids Align Their Stars?

“What do you want to be when you grow up?” It’s such a familiar question. We throw it out to the littlest of our littles, as early as age three or four, once their interests start to sparkle.

September 20, 2022 | | Headwaters Nest

A nurse, a firefighter, an astronaut, a superhero … The familiar professions (definitely including superheroes) are the usual suspects. As Hallowe’en approaches each year, many youngsters dress up in costumes that reflect their aspirations, trying out different identities – as their chosen paths fork again and again.

Very few people I know really did have their passion and lifework locked in at an early age. They either knew and grew their strength because it was so obvious to them, or because their parental figures pushed them: “Continue your studies, child, and you will someday be a doctor, just as we planned for you.” Ah, the classic nature versus nurture teeter-totter!

Where you land is sometimes clear from a young age. Kids doing what they were truly built to do, their tiny DNA strands vibrating with energy when they are engaged, excited – digging in the dirt or with paint on their hands, or studying the stars. For some, what Momma or Papa drilled into them became the path chosen, underwritten by the 10,000-hours hypothesis that Malcolm Gladwell described in his book Outliers: The Story of Success. Just 10,000 hours of practice and you can become good at anything – well, I’m paraphrasing Gladwell here, but given time, effort and some talent, you have a good shot at elite performance and mastery.

But what do we wish for those who don’t see their stars aligning along a clear path, as clear as the night sky on these chilly nights? What if digging in the dirt doesn’t lead our children to become ecologists or soil scientists? What if abstract drawings are just distracted doodles and nothing more – no artist or genius “outlier” escaping onto paper. 

We rush to find answers: “Aha! They’re naturally gifted! This is it – a master already!” It’s easy to fall into the trap of parenting to a result and missing the journey along the way. My son Adrian, who graduated from high school this year, had an early aptitude for language – great vocabulary, excellent debating skills and logic as straight as Sagittarius’s arrow. Optimism and our need to “aim higher” made us think maybe he would be a lawyer? A writer? A politician?

Not so. While highly articulate and analytical, Adrian generally likes to work with his hands and learn through doing. Shop classes at Orangeville District Secondary School were his favourite, and little projects one by one would come home for us to admire. He kept up his writing, history and other academic skills just fine – but it was auto mechanics that started to stick. 

While other kids were signing up for university this year, we were quietly helping Adrian find his path in the world of auto. The challenges involved in auto mechanics are really interesting, and over dinner we talk about car problems and how to solve them. I’ve heard snide remarks about the “going-nowhere” kids in tech – and it hurts me to my core. Not only are such comments elitist – post-secondary education is not accessible for many – but it is also just not the choice or passion for others.

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  • Earlier this year, the Canadian government launched a campaign called First Choice, to attract skilled tradespeople to high-demand, well-paying jobs as a career. The government reported that about 700,000 skilled trades workers have either retired or are expected to by 2028, creating an ever-growing need to recruit and train thousands more. This labour shortage is creating a crisis that will impact each and every one of us in our everyday lives. 

    Of the many, many people who toil and design their own lives here in the hills, how open we seem to some career paths as “good” ones – but how closed we can be to others. What makes us value one job more highly than another? Our inner biases bear examining. Some of those biases have been broken down during the pandemic when frontline and essential workers nailed their service day in and day out, alongside PhDs, keeping us safe, fed, protected. Truck drivers, support workers, cleaning staff and doctors, legal professionals and policy wonks came together to keep us safe. 

    “See where this goes,” I said to Adrian the other day, “because there are always choices.” I love that we don’t have to feel locked in for life, that there are so many options. I’m so happy to see so many weird, cool, smart kids doing so many weird, cool, smart things here in the hills.

    I reminded Adrian of my dad’s journey. When he was Adrian’s age, he also started his career as an auto mechanic. Soon, he was working for the Ministry of Transportation and working his way up in the policy ranks with a focus on road safety and regulations. Then he became an entrepreneur. Then a real estate agent. Then a paralegal. “See,” I said to Adrian, “you just never know how your stars will align.” 

    More Info

    Oh Yeah, OYAP!

    Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program is a specialized program that connects high school students to apprenticeships, so they can explore careers in skilled trades. Kids will be paid to learn, graduate without debt, and prep for great career opportunities such as welder, child and youth worker, millwright, service technician or plumber, to name a few. In fact, OYAP lists over 140 career choices that can be discovered through apprenticeship. Students must be starting Grade 11 or 12 and enrolled in their high school co-op program. Find out more about this active learning pathway, including myths and facts about skilled trades at

    Happy Smiles Again

    Dental care can be costly – but the investment in maintaining a healthy smile will last a lifetime. Healthy Smiles Ontario (HSO) is a government-funded dental program providing free preventive, routine, and emergency dental services for children 17 years old and under from low-income households. Checkups, x-rays, fillings, all may be covered under this program. Check the income eligibility chart at the HSO website or refer a friend who might need this service. The program has gradually been restarting and dentists are monitoring for Covid to ensure safety of all patients. 

    Food Bank Update

    Did you know that 37 per cent of clients served at Orangeville Food Bank are children? Focused “Food of the Month” campaigns help get the food needed most on food bank shelves and on to residents. In October, juice boxes and peanut-free snacks are the focus, and in November, the focus is cereal and oatmeal. Take a moment to pick up a few of these items our youngest community members and their families might need. ALL the grocery stores in Orangeville have donation bins right by their doors; it’s as easy as a quick drop in the box as you do your weekly shop. Many others have donation bins here in the hills as well. Thank you for donating!

    Stars and Strollers

    Who doesn’t love a good movie with friends? But what about a good movie with a babe-in-arms or youngsters that get squirmy when the lights go down, or comment out loud on the action on screen? The Star and Strollers program through Cineplex could be just for you. It takes place at 1 p.m. on Thursdays in Orangeville, offering the latest flicks in a child-friendly environment – lowered volumes, dimmed lighting, change tables, bottle warmers. Great for chilly afternoons. 

    About the Author More by Bethany Lee

    Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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