29 September 2010

Where Did I Go Wrong?

Tuffy started her junior year at UW today. She's an English major.

Nothing wrong with being an English major. Some of my best friends were English majors. I just never expected my daughter would be one.

Looking back, I guess I should've seen it coming. She has always been a relentlessly verbal child. She had rules of grammar, even for made-up words. Instead of 'forget', for example, she used to say 'getfor.' But if it happened in the past, she would say 'gotfor.' Perhaps I should've realized it was a bad sign for a toddler to conjugate made-up verbs.

Instead, I was encouraged when she referred to a pair of objects as 'two ones.' I thought it reflected a sound understanding of basic mathematical concepts. And she always did fine in math and science -- at least as well as I ever did.

So where did I go wrong?

We always spent family vacations outdoors; camping, hiking, birdwatching. We bred and showed dogs, and more recently worked with retired racing greyhounds. How could she not grow up to be a little naturalist? A mini-me?

I held out hope last quarter when she took a comparative psychology class from David Barash. Animal behavior is fascinating, and if Barash teaches anywhere near as well as he writes, it should be a great class. How could she not be sucked in?

She liked the class. She did fine. She's still an English major.

It's not the prospect of dire job prospects that concerns me. A zoology degree doesn't buy you much, either. I spent the majority of my working life as a tech writer. She'll find something to do. That's not the problem.

It's just that whole nature-nurture thing. The idea that a child is a blank slate.

Nope. No blank slate here. Some behavior must be hard-wired. My daughter is an English major.

It could be worse, I suppose. She could be majoring in psychology. Or philosophy. Or she could be dealing drugs. Or voting Republican.

I'll deal.


  1. My first time through college was for medical science -- my parents' dream for me. Then I went back and became one of those -- you know -- English Majors!! (Even got a Masters as an ooops -- English Major!!) I loved it, and at that time, there were always teaching positions available. Many of my fellow [ahem] English Majors went on to Law School. It's not the end of the world.

  2. LOL - it's mysterious to me too, this desire to be an English major. Many of my peers in grad school (Library and Information "Science") had English undergrad degrees or something else liberal artsy. They were definitely more classically educated than I but often quite lost with applying research methods/stats and business concepts. Aargh.

    Don't be too hard on yourself - I suspect she is going to thrive and prosper in spite of this particular quest.

  3. Being into nature and animals, and anti-establishment myself (actually I was a hippie), I understand your position.

    My daughter had planned on becoming a veternarian from the age of 4...then what did she do? Decided on law...LAW!!!

    Well, now she is a banker...go figure. I have complete faith that my granddaughter (age 5) will be a mini me ;) At least it looks that way right now.

  4. The problem is that if she were to major in something like accounting or engineering, she would probably want to vote Republican.

  5. Your entry got me thinking I've spent 20+ years as a spouse caregiver, longer than any paid career and cannot think of a single course in college that really prepared me for life except perhaps 'humanities'. I would not be so quick to knock English Majors, there is more 'heart' in literature than will ever be found in science.

    Caregivingly Yours,

  6. I majored in psychology, all I do is write all day. I wanted to act, but never minored in English--go figure. My mom wanted me to be a civil servant--go figure. (back in her day that meant steady job, good benefits, nice little house) She never nurtured me in anything. Nature? She was scared to death of crowds and very shy. Her hope was to marry and raise babies. Go figure. She was a secretary until women's lib, then a manager at GTE. Hated working. No hobbies. No friends. If she had any hope for me it was to find a good man and be taken care of like she never was. My sperm donor was a carpenter and factory worker. My one brother was first to graduate from college and his thing was math--got into computers. I am not so sure what we decide to do with our employment life is "hard wired." Role models, available objects (like musical instruments) certainly help kids head a certain way. I know you are proud of your kid whatever she does, and offspring can spring off at any moment into new fields. I wish I had a child. Oh the fun of watching what they would grow up to do with their life!