Will I be pretty, will I be rich?

One thing I find very entertaining about children – especially small children – are their career goals. Very small children have somewhat abstract ideas about what they will be when they grow up; I clearly remember wishing to be a flower. And now I have a flower profile picture on my blog! Profound. Anyway, both of my boys went through a prolonged period in which their burning ambition was to drive a garbage truck; I don’t want to sound snobbish here, we all know the importance of sanitation workers and the difficult job that they do, but I was kind of glad when that phase passed. As of today, Jake’s career ambition, strangely, is to be a mountain climber. Does that mean he wants to be a vagabond? Or maybe he will be a mountain climber and write books, like that guy who wrote Into Thin Air. If so, cool. Mark alternates between a path of paleontology and being a “business man”. We went to visit my husband at the office one day, and Mark stretched out on his swivel chair and said luxuriantly, “Is this where you make all the money, Dad?”. I could just imagine what he thought the world of work was like. I guess it was not unlike my experience in grad school, where I thought that with my economics degrees I would somehow change the world for the better, and then I ended up working as a quantitative analyst in natural gas option trading. Totally NOT changing the world for the better, but an interesting job nonetheless.

Anyway, the kindergarten is doing a Community Helpers unit at school, better known in my day as “What will I do when I grow up?”, and I was helping in the classroom. I had a group of four to cycle through the various work centers and in a slow moment at the dentist center (an awesome craft of painting a yellow paper tooth white with the help of toothbrushes and a mixture of corn syrup and white paint) I asked my group what they wanted to be when they grew up. The group consisted of two sweet and well-behaved girls, a disruptive and somewhat hyper boy, and a boy who the teacher euphemistically informed me “requires extra assistance with the activities”. One girl, predictably, wanted to be a ballerina, the other wanted to be a mom. I was a little surprised; I didn’t know girls said they wanted to be moms anymore. Nonetheless, I praised their decisions with enthusiasm. Disruptive and Somewhat Hyper Boy told me he wanted to be a cop and shoot all the bad guys! Bang bang bang! I answered that police officers are very important Community Helpers. Then I asked the Boy Who Requires Extra Assistance what he wanted to be. His answer: a princess. I was, momentarily, speechless. He looked up at me, smiling, waiting for the positive commentary I had given his classmates. One of the girls said “He can’t be a princess! He’s a boy!” – to which I rallied, and said that anyone can be anything they want to be when they grow up, if they work at it.

It’s something I tell the boys all the time, but I don’t entirely believe it. I mean, if you work really hard at something AND you have some degree of aptitude, then yes, you can be what you want to be. But really, no matter what amount of effort I put into it, no matter how hard I work, there are some career options that are forever closed to me: becoming a supermodel, say, or an Olympic shotputter, or a NASA scientist, or anything at all requiring artistic ability. I could, as the hockey players say, give it 110%, and I would still achieve minimal, if any, success in those fields.

But who wants to quash the kindergartener spirit? Certainly not me. Even if the Boy Who Requires Extra Assistance wants to be a princess, well, it’s probably only marginally less likely to occur than his classmate becoming a ballerina. So I guess we all can dream.


  1. Subspace Beacon says

    “Is this where you make all the money, Dad?” HAHAHAHAAAaaaaaa.

    Oh dear, Boy Who Requires Extra Assistance, I foresee some very painful moments in your future.

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