What do you want to be when you grow up?
When you were young, and your parents asked you “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and you answered with whatever was your heart’s desire at the time, what was their response?
In my travels within Playcentre, listening to the littlies announce their intended professions (some of which will change three times before next Sunday…) I’ve been amused by the adult reactions.
Take the announcement “I want to be a doctor!” as an example.
In some cases, the response is merely an acknowledgement. “Oh what a lovely idea!” the adult might say.
In others, the adult takes the announcement seriously and provides too much information. “Well, you’ll have to go to school for a really long time and do a lot of hard work. You won’t be a doctor until you’re 30!!”
Less frequently, you hear something like this: “I like that idea. Shall we go and read a story about doctors?” or (after theatrically pretending to trip and fall) “Oh! OW! I think I’ve hurt my arm. Do you think there’s a doctor here who will check my arm?” or something else that actively acknowledges and encourages the exploration of the idea the littlie has expressed.
In which case do you think the child has learnt the most?
When I was younger (but older than 9) the response I gave most often to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up,” was “A writer.”
The adult response to that was “Oh! Well then you’ll want to be an English Major in University.”
That wasn’t the most helpful response. I didn’t hear a better response until I was 16 and I went to an adult education course on creative writing. There, the response was simply “Write. Write frequently. Write often. Rewrite. Write what you hear. Write what you see. Write everything you experience. Keep writing.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? And if an adult had said that to me at 9, how different would my writing be? We won’t know.
But we could know for our children.
My children and I were watching a video by RSA Animate (check them out, you’ll learn a lot!!) and while most of the talk probably went over their heads (many abstract ideas!!) they were fascinated by the drawings.
My Boy, at the end of the video said wistfully “I wish I could draw like that.”
If we look at the adult responses above, then I could have said “Yes, that would be cool, wouldn’t it?” or I could have said “Well, then, you’ll want to take drawing classes and be an art major.” But I didn’t.
I said “The artist is able to draw like that because he draws a lot. He draws every chance he gets. Sometimes his drawings don’t look the way he wants them to, so he does them again. He draws the things he sees, he draws the things he knows. He draws how he feels. If you want to draw like that, then you have to sit down and do a lot of drawing. Practice.”
That idea excited My Boy. He asked “Can I go and do some drawing, now?” Of course I said yes, so of course, he did.
This doesn’t necessarily mean he will be a famous artist when he grows up. It doesn’t even mean he will stick at drawing all the time. But unlike me, he’s been given a crucial bit of information. If you want to be able to do something well, you have to practice it. Often. It’s up to him whether he does it or not.
How have you responded to your children’s aspirations for the future?