When I grow up, I am going to be a princess. No, wait…I want to be a rock star that rides horses and marries a prince so I can live in a castle. Or maybe I will be a veterinarian, the President of the United States, a doctor or even a teacher. When I grow up, I want to be a ballerina on Saturdays and spend the rest of my time writing books. Yes, a writer. When I grow up, I want to be a writer. Who drives a convertible. And has a farm. When I grow up….I, want to be a ________________! (Feel free to insert answer)
If you have ever listened to a child speak about what they want to be when they grow up, it is amazing to see the enthusiasm and twinkle in their eye when they say it. They might dance around the room with the coordination of a black bear exclaiming that they will be the best dancer in the world. Perhaps, they live in the middle of New York City yet carry around a rodeo rope practicing for the Wild West that they want to live in when they grow up. Perhaps most enlightening, is that each time your child opens their mouth or is privy to another influence through the powers of media, what they want to be changes. Yet, regardless of what word they place in the space above, it is evident that when a child grows up, they want to be somebody!
You have heard the stories of the famous ball players, actors, or businessmen whose parents tell the tale of how they have been following their dream since they were just 2 years old. It gives pause to wonder if these kids would have turned in to the super stars they are, had a parent not given in to the carefree whims of their child’s dreams. And while it is often assumed that some people are born with talent for sports, dance or business, while others are not – it seems that children still believe wholeheartedly that there is no stamp on their DNA which decides who or what they can be. In fact, a child believes in the simplest of moments that they can be a princess, cowboy, or astronaut and with no one to tell them otherwise, it is exactly what they become in their imagination.
Somewhere along the way of growing up, humans get the message that they have limitations on their abilities in life. They figure out through system and social pressures that dreaming, imagining, and creating the perfect existence is unrealistic and silly. So rather than pursue their rock star dreams or circus life – they fall into place on the bandwagon of routine that turns them into ordinary people. But what if, as a parent – you listened and allowed your child to live and follow all of their dreams to the fullest extent of their interest and ability. Yes, you would be chasing them around the non-literal world but would be opening up the real world for them in incredible ways.
What is most sad, is that by the time most of these imaginative, creative and wonderful creatures called children become middle school students, they have no real idea of what they want to be. They want to make money for sure. They have listened to numerous adults talk about college education and lucrative careers. They have probably completed career days and aptitude tests to help them find areas where they are more prone to excel in life. Fast forward to high school, and ‘graduation’ coaches are prompting them to start picking out classes to help them with their chosen career path. (Like they have a clue) Then there is college and first jobs as well as romance and the drive to earn their own money, which steers them miles away from their childhood dreams. They have learned indeed what it takes to be seen as successful in life, but they have lost their aptitude for silly and dreaming. Ask them now, what they want to be when they grow up and they will likely shrug on the couch looking to find the answer that will please the adults in their life. If only you could force them to stand in the center of your living room wearing a ballerina dress and twirling till they threw up, with the dreams of becoming a fancy and famous dancer again just as they did when they were four.
There are probably very few people who grew up to be what they wanted to be when they were a young child. These people become parents, stuck behind computer screens and living a life that makes ends meets. They may feel cheated somehow down deep and start pushing their own childhood dreams on their child, not realizing that their child is not them. As you watch your own child, it is easy to see the millions of missed opportunities that you had as a child. It is easy to see that had your parents encouraged you to play baseball you might have been the next Chipper Jones. It is easy to recognize that your most basic and imaginative knowing of who you are and what you want to be was right on. Then you spend the better part of your adult life trying to figure out a way to live out your dreams again, but are so stuck in financial commitments and responsibilities that it’s nearly impossible. The point is, at some time in your life – you will return to what you want to be when you grow up. You may not be an astronaut, or ballerina. You may not every make it to the wild, Wild West. You may never be President or have your own television show and you may not step foot on a professional athletic field. But you might be a coach, a business owner. You may own a few horses or work at a museum. In other words after years of misdirection and superficial reasons for existing, you will return to your passions and imagination again. It is just sad that we feel the need to wait so long to do so.
The next time the child in your life says, “When I grow up, I want to be a crocodile hunter” decide to listen and live in their world for just a few minutes. Allow them to have their dreams and take care to not do anything that will discourage them. In due time, all of that will happen anyways!