I grieved Pluto’s loss when it was demoted to dwarf status. I had love for the last of the known planets, and I had the mnemonic to prove it. Now I am coming to terms not only with the loss, but the gain: four more dwarf planets have been identified, with some estimates that there may be upwards of 10,000 of these bodies in our solar system.
I also grieved — it still tugs at me — the reality that I was never able to pursue my dream of being an astronomer. I spent many hours pining away over cosmic books, magazines, and inspiring series on, yes, The Learning Channel. But I didn’t have the family support that could have pointed me to the way, even if it was hard. Nobody believed in me. Nobody cared. Even if they had, they weren’t the kind of people who understood the shape of that journey. So it was a dream that died long ago, except for the times that it stings.
One thing I did learn from that childhood is to use discernment with parenting adages. You weigh them, you research, try things on. Some are garbage, others have heft. One that seemed reasonable was to not project your dreams on to your children. I probably took this on because I assumed it belonged to people with failed dreams of sport hero or pop star. But now my daughter has decided that she is going to be an astronomer, to study galaxies and dwarf planets.
I have started to question how this evolved. When she said she wanted to be a scientist, did I overtly explain astronomy? Did I ignore my own initial statement that “scientists can study almost anything?” Now I am thinking about how to guide her on the one hand without pushing her with the other.
There is excitement. And pride. The connection to my own passion. I imagine her finding and naming a slew of dwarf planets, inspired by Pluto. Then on to new galaxies, expanding our understanding of the universe and taking a step closer to Spirit in the process. An exquisite depth of sharing that most parents only dream of.
Then there is reality. I took on two degrees that I didn’t wind up working in. I became a slave to debt. I can’t help with advanced math. With the world falling apart in front of us, is it foolish to assume that this may be a viable path? And yeah, maybe I did skew things.
So I am taking a pause and putting the rule back into play. I am also leaning into the reality that it was my kid who introduced me to Ceres, Eris, Makemake and Haumea.
I am going to give her space. I hope — if it comes from within — that she will take it.