Thursday, March 22, 2012

When I Grow Up

This afternoon, out of the blue, my two-year-old son said to me, “Mama, do you want to know what I will grow up to be?” Curious, I told him that I did want to know, very much. Given his current interests, I expected him to say he would be a fire fighter, or a policeman, or a mailman. Nope. “Mama, I will grow up to be a dinosaur.” Okay, that was an unexpected twist. I asked, “Will you be a T-Rex, like Buddy on Dinosaur Train?” He answered with an enthusiastic, “Yeah!” then paused a moment and added, “Or maybe like Tiny’s mama.” (Another Dinosaur Train reference.) “You want to be Mrs. Pteranodon?” I asked him. “Yeah!” was his reply. “She knows how to fly!”

My son may not grow up to know how to fly, or to be a dinosaur. He may not even grow up to be a fire fighter or a policeman or a mailman. But what I hope for him is that he finds something that makes him as excited as the thought of being a flying dinosaur.
It’s good for children to have aspirations. And it’s even better when those aspirations change over time. They should change to reflect the child’s greater understanding of himself, and of the world, and of reality. It’s wonderful when a young child recognizes the fascination of flight and wants to grow up to be a flying dinosaur. It’s more wonderful when the child gets a little older and realizes he can’t be a dinosaur but that maybe he can be an airline pilot. And when he gets a bit older still and realizes that maybe he doesn’t like math enough to be a pilot, but that he would love to spend time in a plane and he wants to be a flight attendant. Or maybe a child starts off wanting to fly, then decides she likes speed but not heights and wants to be a racecar driver, and then decides that’s too dangerous for her tastes but she loves working with the cars and decides to become an auto mechanic.
It really doesn’t matter what a child grows up to be, as long as it’s exciting, attainable, and will keep him or her in the type of lifestyle he or she is willing to accept. Maybe that’s a vice president of a bank, and maybe it’s a bank teller. Maybe it’s an engineer and maybe it’s a telephone repairman. It might even be dressing up in a plush dinosaur suit and entertaining at children’s parties – children who might go home to mom and dad and announce that they’d like to grow up to be a dinosaur.

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