the final frontier


My sister and I listened as our oldest four children played Space Station the other day. This make-believe included specific ranks (Commander, we need more oxygen in the science bay! Ok, Lieutenant), math for strategic rationing (We only have one box of food left until we get back to base, and there's four of us, so we each get one-quarter food.), and pretend names: Michael, Charlie, Mae, and Neil.

I've been thinking about space a lot lately since my husband and I started rewatching Star Trek: The Next Generation. ("Encounter at Farpoint" is so much longer than I remembered. But Q is just as weird.)

In case you aren't familiar, our kids were playing Neil Armstrong, Mae Jemison, Michael Collins, and Charlie Duke. All American astronauts. Total #mompride and #auntpride moment. We've bred pint-sized nerds. Little learners -- hooray!

My son is doing a second-grade biography project, and--of course--he chose Neil Armstrong. One of the pieces he has to include in his essay is stories of his chosen "hero" as a child. I loved seeing what he picked:

  • Neil Armstrong was a Boy Scout.
  • Neil Armstrong baked donuts to pay for his flying lessons.
  • Neil Armstrong's first flight was in a plane called the Tin Goose when he was 6.

Lessons learned from this: Neil Armstrong was 6 once. He really liked planes. He worked hard. He chose a path that aimed at his goal.

A Facebook mom's group I'm a part of recently posed a question, "What would your child's future career be based on their current obsession?" People gave answers like firefighter, veterinarian, mommy, and police officer. Others said paleontologist, archaeologist, dolphin trainer, and--yes--astronaut. Everyone gave thumbs-up with comments like "awww reach for the stars khaleesi." The tone of the conversation made me feel like they all believed we were raising assistant-to-the-regional-managers.

Don't get me wrong -- if my kids love and honor Jesus, I don't care if they find a way to support their family as professional elbow models or salesmen for pocket lint. But my point is that somebody, somewhere IS raising a future president. Somebody IS raising a future astronaut. Somebody IS raising a future head of the UN. Somebody IS raising a future five-star general. Somebody IS raising an Olympian. Somebody somewhere IS raising the inventor of the whatchamacallit that changes the world.

Odds are, it isn't me. But you better believe I'm gonna live my life like it might be. I'm gonna answer every question they ask, nurture every dream they imagine, and check out books until my library card is declined.

I'm gonna help them shoot for the moon even if they miss.

Speaking of missing the moon, my favorite line in one of my favorite movies (Apollo 13) is delivered by astronaut Jim Lovell's mother (the actress, sidebar, is actually the mother of Ron Howard, the director of the movie). In a movie full of "Houston, we have a problem," and "Failure is not an option," my favorite line is probably less memorable.

The family is holding back tears because Jim's ship is basically drifting in space after an explosion. Jim's mom turns to her granddaughter and says, "Are you scared? Well, don't you worry, honey. If they could get a washing machine to fly, my Jimmy could land it." 

There's a mom who never told her son he wouldn't be an Eagle Scout. Who never told her son he wouldn't get into the Naval Academy. Who never told her son he wouldn't graduate first in his class. Who never told her son he wouldn't be a test pilot. Who never told her son he wouldn't be an astronaut.

Something tells me that when he got home after Apollo 13 finally landed, when those parachutes thawed and the carrier brought him home... something tells me she still told him he could go get the moon.

I'm gonna be poetic here, but The Final Frontier isn't space. The Final Frontier is my kid's future, stretching endlessly before him.