What do you want to be when you grow up?

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.E. Cummings

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are. E.E. Cummings

There’s been a lot of “When I grow up, I want to be…” talk at our house recently. It’s funny how my kids’ interests are evolving and getting refined as they grow up.

In the past few months I’ve read in several books explaining that, to find your very own passion in life, you have to go back to your childhood and remember what you really, really enjoyed doing at the time, the one thing you preferred to do over any other activities. I remember my favorite activities (there were several). Unfortunately I don’t really follow any of these passions for a living today, although I find myself trying to get there now. It’s never too late, right?

When it comes to making career choices, a lot of people tend to influence us as children.  Negative comments such as “you don’t want to be that”, “that’s not a career”, “you’ll never make money” can not only be hurtful, they can literally suck the passion right out of our kids’ souls. And I believe that’s what happened to me. So I swear, I swear, I swear I won’t be like that with my kids! And if I am, somebody please knock the stupidity out of me.

Here’s what my kids have expressed when it comes to growing up these past few months:

Son #1 (age 6): “When I grow up, I want to be a writer, an illustrator, and a movie maker. But not all at once. I can’t draw and make a movie at the same time.”

I hope the kid gets what he wants. He deserves it and is showing talent for a few of these things already.

Son #2 (age 4): “When I grow up, I want to be a plumber, a cockroach exterminator, a firefighter, and a paleontologist.”

That’s a plateful too and I love it!

Of course, my kids are always curious to know more about me, so my four-year old and I had this conversation a few weeks ago:

Son #2: “Mama, what do you want to me when you grow up?”
Me: “Er, I’m already grown up.”
Son #2: “Oh. What do you want to me when you’re already grown up?”

That’s when it hit me. Just like them, I don’t want to do just one thing, and I still have a lot of growing up to do when it comes to following my passions. So here’s my list, in almost no specific order:

“When I’m already grown up, I want to be a mother, a friend, a writer, a photographer, an artist, and a mentor.”

What do you want to be when you’re already grown up? Are you today what you wanted to be when you were a young child? Do you live your life’s passion or did you get sidetracked along the way?

Growing up old cartoon

Growing up old

22 responses to “What do you want to be when you grow up?

  1. So important to allow those passions to flourish, it took me so long to realise what I wanted because of the noise of everyone telling me what I should do and what I was capable of doing. I spent years fulfilling others expectations and felt nothing for what I achieved.

    My 10 yr old daughter asked me only a few days ago why I never tell her what I think she should do when she grows up and I said because it is important for her to discover and know her own passions in life and then to follow them. She agreed but said I wasn’t like other parents. Apparently they are already speaking about this to each other at school! I have no concerns about my children, they both have well developed passions which I trust will take them to a content place in their lives as adults.

    I never knew what I wanted, I always had my nose in a book, escaping into a story, but I knew I wanted to travel and go far away. I hated labels and used to say that there are things out there we don’t even know about yet and those are the things I wanted to be doing when I grow up. Today I am doing all of things and I love it. I work, but it doesn’t seem like work and I love to encourage others to shed the things they don’t love and start doing the thing they’re meant to be doing, and being the person we really are.

    • Claire, I think you really nailed it. It’s amazing to still see so many parents today influence their kids’ future and careers, pushing them to be the athlete they failed to be, or the scientist they are. Parents often try to push their own failed dreams or personal passions on their kids. I was attracted very early on to languages and art, only to be constantly pushed towards science, which I was good at but had zero passion for. I know I “fell” into marketing by chance, where I managed to partially fulfill my love for language and design. I’m slowly building on my old passions of photography, art and writing but it’s hard to catch up! I can’t wait to see what my kids’ personal talents and passions really are and encourage them to explore and learn more. I think it’s a wonderful thing to be able to do as a parent.

  2. A cockroach exterminator and a paleontologist–love those two!

    I’m not so sure I got side-tracked so much as I took the long road around to getting where I am now. Had I pursued writing from the start, I may not have had the life experiences I have now to write something of value. Plus, I like knowing I have a strong background to fall back on should my “year of writing” fizzle out into nothing. But like you, I never want to squelch my kids’ dreams. Of course, they need to support themselves, but there are ways to do that and still love what you do.

    Nice post. :)

    • He wants to be a cockroach exterminator so he can wear a gas mask, and a paleontologist so he can dig up dinosaur bones. Oh, and a plumber because it’s hard work and he helps people who need him (very true!). I have no idea what type of career he’ll have but I can see he genuinely loves to help people and he’s very physically active, so hopefully he can find a fulfulling career to match his talents.

      I really think that if you can help identify your kids’ talents and passions early on, you can guide them to explore them further and by the time they reach adulthood, they can become experts in their area. Bill Gates is a great example of that, when his parents sent him to computer programming summer camp at Berkeley when he was a teenager. By the time he was out of high school, he knew as much about computers as people twice his age. It’s all about putting in the hours to reach that expertise (I understand it’s 10,000 hours), so the earlier you start, the earlier you get there. As I always tell my kids, practice makes perfect, and it takes a lot of practice!

  3. Love the cartoon!!

    I wanted to be a writer from a very early age. ;-)
    At one point I also wanted to be a nun (and I used to wear my dressing gown on my head and pretend it was my habit), and a lorry driver and the next British female PM. ALL AT ONCE.

    None of my children know what they want to do. Though my son is starting to show interest in some kind of disaster rescue service (age 12). He’s joined the local fire service now so it could actually be that he takes that root. Before that he wanted to be a chef.

    I try to drum it into my children that the job they pick should be something they enjoy. And it starts before that, every subject they chose should be something that excites them and it’ll lead on from there. We’re coming to that time now, with the elder two. My eldest has decided she wants one of her specialised subjects to be art. I find that fantastic because she’s really creative and I think she’ll love it (she’s not the one who’s drawings you commented on, that’s the second one). I think, where we live, most parents would encourage their children away from art and towards more academic subjects.

    A parents of a friend of my daughter have decided their child should be a doctor (and exactly which type) even though she’s struggling at school and has no interest in becoming a doctor at all. She wants to be a stylist. I feel so sorry for her.

    I think that you’re doing a great job P.M.!!

    • Enjoying your career is so important! And I think there are a lots of facets to each talent, with access to dozens of potential careers, not just one. My 6-year old is very artistic and draws really well, but he’s also a great inventor and builds some amazing Lego models. Of course, he could go towards art, but design engineering is an option too. There are so many opportunities out there so parents can do their best by guiding their kids to learn more about them. There are so many jobs I didn’t know existed when I was a kid. Had I known more, I could have picked something earlier on, if I had had a choice. I feel sorry for that poor girl destined to be a doctor. That’s really sad.

      I love your idea of being a nun and a PM. Mother Theresa was kind of like that, a religious and a political figure. I don’t believe she drove trucks though, but maybe I’m wrong!

  4. I love this. The other day I caught myself forgetting I was grown up and reliving fantasies of becoming an acrobat – ha! Your children are delightful!

  5. I wanted to speak ALL the languages of the world.
    I wanted be an interpreter at the UN.
    I wanted to be a famous rock star.
    I wanted to be an attorney.
    I wanted to be a writer.

    Je parle un peu de Francais et un poquito d’espanol.
    I would HATE to live in NYC to work at the UN.
    I’ve sung in shows, bars, and weddings . . . I love my anonymity.
    I practiced law for 13 years . . . long enough.
    I am a writer.

    No regrets. It all led me to THIS door.

    A scene in a movie that bugged me recently involved a father trying to bully his grown son to do what the dad wanted the son to do:


    Children should be unfolded, not molded. GREAT POST!

    • Thanks for listing your aspirations as a child, Nancy. It’s great you’ve been able to do it all. I’m getting there too, still a few things to do on my list, but getting there.

      And I love the movie The Proposal. Besides some hilarious scenes and Betty White as the grandmother you want to have (remember how she fakes her heart attack to get the family back together?), I can really identify with Ryan Reynolds’ character. He’s a grown-up man, doing what he wants to do in life and yet, his father is disappointed in him because he had his own plans for his son. I hope my kids grow up to do something they love to do, because that’s how life should be.

  6. Pingback: The Proposal « Spirit Lights The Way

  7. I love that they want to be so much. It is possible, so keep on encouraging them :)

  8. I love that question and it’s one I think about all the time. As I get older, I realize it’s not just what I want to be, but also how I want to be. I’m no longer interested in busy-ness for the sake of busy-ness or a career that is so demanding that it detracts from the rest of my life. Lately, I feel like I have the balance I want in mothering and writing. (We’ll see how long that lasts before I’m on to the next challenge!)

  9. Pingback: My kids say the darndest things – the January 2013 edition | Perfecting motherhood

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