What Will They Be When They Grow Up?

by Abby on February 1, 2012

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m afraid all this “what do you want to be when you grow up?” stuff is a bad idea. On one hand, I get it. It’s a fun, harmless question. Kids come up with some pretty funny answers. When he was 3 my oldest said he wanted to be a donut maker and a diver, in that order. At 5, he likes science and dogs, so perhaps a career in veterinary medicine is in the cards. But then again, maybe not. Why do we feel the need to saddle kids with a future profession so early?

Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley spoof Chippendales on SNLIf early inclinations are any measure, my toddler son—who is so fond of removing his clothes—has a future as an exotic dancer. (BTW, my brother had a friend in college who was a Chippendale dancer. I swear. As a mom of boys, I now find that completely degrading and disturbing and wonder what the heck his parents were smoking. But I have to admit that as a hormone-addled teenage girl, I thought it was cool. This boy was like Rob Lowe-cute, people.)

I think it’s funny that just because most of us adults are obsessed with what people do for a living, we project that onto our kids. One time when my husband was grumbling about some work woes he said, “I just want our boys to be proud of me.”

“Hon, those kids wouldn’t care if you were a garbage collector. They ARE proud of you and they love you because you’re their dad. They could care less what you do for a living.”

C. thought for a minute and said, “They’d actually probably be MORE proud of me if I were a garbage collector.” He’s got a point. Garbage men get to ride around on the back of a truck and don’t have to wear seatbelts.

Besides, most kids don’t even know what their parents do. Mine think I grocery shop for a living. Every time I pick them up at school they say, “What’d you get at the store, Mom?” As for my husband, he’s brought the boys into his office a few times. Ask them what Daddy does at work and they say, “He eats candy and talks on the phone.”

But leave it to a kid to cut through the b.s. and give you a reality check. One day my older son completely blew us away when he said, “When I grow up I want to be a dad. I’ll adopt a kid who doesn’t have a home.” (We didn’t even know he knew what adoption was.)

“Oh, yeah? That’s great, buddy. You’ll make a great dad.”

He smiled. “I know.”

I can’t think of anything better I’d rather have my son be when he grows up. And I will make SURE that the only bowtie he ever wears is with a shirt, at his wedding!

LINK O’ THE DAY: A related post from my archives, on why “Being a Grown-Up is Overrated.”

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Lou Mello February 1, 2012 at 6:52 am

Sounds like your hubby is setting a wonderful example of what a Dad is for your son to make that remark. That is so cool.
I think when we are young adults we identify ourselves to some degree with our job, whatever it is. As one grows older, we find that the job is merely a means to an end, namely providing a living that lets us do and be the things we want to be. I probably identify myself as first a husband and father and then as a friend. I also identify myself as a Rotarian and that makes me happy to be able to help others. My job is the last thing that I would identify myself with, it is just a way to make a living.


jetts31 February 1, 2012 at 8:04 am

I had the same worry as your husband. I thought I needed to be an astronaut or ambassador so my kids would be proud. Thing is, I think they’re proud of me but it wouldn’t matter what I did for a living. It doesn’t matter what your husband does, your kids will be proud. FYI…I wanted to be Captain America when I was young.


Ali/Alessa February 1, 2012 at 8:54 am

That’s so adorable. Almost tops your youngest son’s “un-delicious.”


Nadine Feldman February 1, 2012 at 10:09 am

What a sweet post! Love it.

When my hubby was a baby, he got overexcited one day at the arrival of the garbage truck (aka the “goggy man”). He tipped over his high chair and dislocated his shoulder, causing the ER personnel to ask his parents LOTS of questions.

50 years later, he still goes running to watch the garbage truck when it comes. I guess he would have loved to have a dad who was a garbage collector!


Kathleen Basi February 1, 2012 at 11:49 am

Hilarious! You’re absolutely right, they *would* be thrilled if we were any sort of truck driver. 🙂


Malia Jacobson February 1, 2012 at 10:52 pm

I remember always being proud of my parents’ professional lives. My mom wrote legislation, and I thought that was the coolest. But I would have been proud of her no matter what. It’s cute to ask kids what they want to be, but I don’t think we should ever hold them to something they say when they’re 5. I know parents of adult children who say things like “But you always wanted to be a scientist! Whatever happened to that?” But you never know. I wanted to be a writer, and writing found me. So you never know…:) And how cool would it be to have a professional doughnut maker in the family?


Angie Mizzell February 2, 2012 at 6:25 am

I totally agree. Grown-ups love to project their “what do you do?” issues, on kids and other “grown-ups.” But a while back I had to explain to my son that I worked from home, as a writer, by choice. That not all mommies did what I did. (He was confused when he saw another mom on our street leaving for work. What is she doing? he asked). I used it as an opportunity to explain that there are so many different things we can do when we grow up and that he has lots of time to decide. And he can even change his mind!


Frume Sarah February 2, 2012 at 7:45 pm

First of all, this is such a great post!!! Typical of your style, mixing serious with the antics of the boys in your house.

What I find interesting is how my kids are dealing with the fact that I am no longer a congregational rabbi. This recent change has really thrown them for a loop. They have difficulty understanding my role now that I am a “housemother.” And they are resistant to go to our new synagogue because I’m not the one up there.

I know that they are still proud of me. I overhear them boasting that I bake challah (egg bread) every week for the Sabbath and all sorts of other things that I never had time to do before.

I’m trying to use this recent change as an example of how we can do different things at different points in our adulthood.


Holly Bowne February 2, 2012 at 8:55 pm

“…’They’d actually probably be MORE proud of me if I were a garbage collector.’ He’s got a point. Garbage men get to ride around on the back of a truck and don’t have to wear seatbelts.”

Bah, ha, ha! I love it! And it’s so true!

I remember my daughter saying she wanted to be a “friend, babysitter, tutor, writer and a mom.” And I remember telling her, “Honey, you can be ALL those things. Just, maybe not at the same time.” ;o)


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