The other day my daughter asked me what I did. (After digging deeper I figured out that the kids at school were talking about the professions that their parents had.)
I informed her of my full-time, low-paying, but highly rewarding job. Taking care of her and her brothers…and her dad. I asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Her response?
“I just want to be fabulous.”
I have to admit that perhaps I have a few too many Marilyn Monroe quotes around the house. But in that moment, I couldn’t have been prouder. I also couldn’t have laughed harder.
The surprising response made me think. A lot. Why was it so surprising? Because of my expectation. My expectation (along with everyone else’s) that she should have responded with a career choice. Perhaps she was onto something far more brilliant. Why is it that we continuously ask kids what they want to be, but never who they want to be?
What if instead of having them pick out careers as kindergarteners, we had them pick out qualities that would embody the person they want to become. What if when they drew a picture of what they wanted to be when they got older it was a picture of someone with a big heart? Big ears? A large brain? Bendable arms to hug with? And when they described who they wanted to be when they grew up their description didn’t include a profession. But instead included adjectives like, “fabulous,” “honest,””inventive,” or “kind.”
The career decisions will come. And don’t get me wrong, of course they are important. But careers come and go and are ever changing. What remains constant is our character and the constructs of what makes us who we are. When that is in tact, we can be content human beings no matter where we find ourselves in our career and what we end up doing. So perhaps our focus should be on asking kids who they want to be so they understand that who they are is far more important than what they do. And that who they are influences the level of happiness that they have in whatever they choose to do.
This has prompted an experiment in my household. Over the next year, I am going to ask my kids who they want to be once a month. I will keep you posted on this experiment, and I invite you to join me. Perhaps society won’t change overnight, but perhaps my home can.
In the meantime? You can find me being fabulous with my 5 year old.