My Soapbox · Parenting

A Dream Deferred

Why do we tell children or ask them what they want to be when they grow up? Why can they not be who they will be right now?

I am a Food Network fanatic. This season’s of Kid’s Baking Championship features some amazing kid bakers. One of the judges asked one of the contestants if he wanted to be a litigator when he grows up. I am not sure why that stuck out because I have watched almost every season of this show. I have watched so many shows where children are asked what they are going to be and have always thought how awesome it was to hear children being so ambitious. But when I was watching this episode, I thought, “well he made it Food Network so he’s already a baker and he did not have to wait until he was grown up to do so.” I understand that there are professions that require advanced degrees but there are so many skills and trades that can be taught at an early age – obviously!

I feel that it is time for a paradigm shift. We should teach and encourage children to be what they want to be today! They can dance, sing, bake, paint, sew, or any other type of skill today! It does not have to wait until grown -up status to manifest or become profitable.

It makes me sad to think that we are taught that “….when you grow up” is when you can become. Michelle Obama wrote in her book that when children are asked what they want to be, the answer is treated as the final destination. I am just now realizing at almost 40 that thinking is antiquated and unfair. I am currently a teacher and am facing my truth that this phase of my career and life is coming to an end. I am excited and hopeful to the new chapter I am trying to think through. I am so happy that I have not given up on myself or my childhood dreams that I assumed would just remain as such.

I grew up thinking I would either be a lawyer, doctor or model. I did not necessarily like to argue but I loved facts, essays and logical debates. I was not a big fan of science but the way the body works fascinated me. Because I was a tall and leggy, becoming a model seemed like a legitimate choice. My father made me and my younger brother choose a field by the 9th grade. I distinctly remember the day we had to declare our career choices. I was sitting at my desk in my room, finishing my homework, confused as to why I had to choose right then and there. I assumed I would change my mind. I remember the journal entry asking When I grow up, I want to be…. and writing my doctor/lawyer/model aspirations. So when my dad asked, I said doctor. He said what kind. I settled on pediatrics or gynecology/obstetrics. That response did not settle with me because it felt that was settling to please my dad. He said we should chose fields that had provided the most generous salaries so we could retire well and buy him a Jag. And as much as I still desire to buy him the vehicle of his choosing, I no longer resent not giving in to his dream. I am now able to pursue my dream deferred…

I am empowered to use my position to encourage all the children under my watch to be who they are TODAY! Do not wait to cultivate talents and skills. Also do not limit their interest to just one area. Expand their horizons through exposure and influence. We must be the change we want to see in the world. “We can change the world when we change ourselves!”

Give love. Get love.

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