Let’s stop asking “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

Hey, look, another blog post (I know, it’s been a while)!  Life has been busy, busy, busy, but fun.  I’ve been writing, rebuilding my web-design business and teaching dance.  And learning, always learning.  Mostly about writing.  I feel like there are never enough hours in the day to learn ALL THE THINGS.  And of course, I’ve been raising my two precious boys.

I’ve made great progress in the last few months towards getting myself out there as a writer, and also earning some money.  My mindset has changed from “I can’t, I’m not good enough, I don’t know what I’m doing” to “Of course I can, I’ve got this, if others can I can too…”  Yes I’m juggling a LOT and I’ve probably said yes to a few too many things, but hey, that’s what makes life fun.  You’ve got to take advantage of opportunities that come your way.  And the universe is answering.  I will soon have my first – albeit small – paycheck for writing; I will soon co-host a podcast on middle-grade books with a friend; and just when I decided to self-publish a chapter book, an opportunity to run a market stall just in time for Christmas came up. See, zen?

I never would have imagined at the age of 8, or 18, or 28 that I would be doing what I am today, but I’m loving it.  And what’s amazing is that it all involves things that I loved doing back when I was eight – writing, dance and computers.  I’ve come full circle.

But nobody told me I could.  Nobody recommended to me that I should do those things.  In fact, I was often discouraged from whatever my career choice of the day was.  I had to find my way through hard work and experience.

And so here is my segue to the point of this blog post…

My big boy is turning eight soon. According to Maria Montessori, he is in the second plane of development. I can see it. I feel like he’s completed the transition from a young boy to a boy. A boy building on his memory bank. A boy preparing for his future. A boy who suddenly has this deeper awareness of life, of things around him.

He has become more aware of is the expectation that one day he will need to decide on a career. Part of this awareness comes from having teenaged cousins who are now facing that decision. Another is from me ramping up my own career activities and working in front of him.  Yet another is from people asking him what he wants to be when he grows up.  

One of our deep and meaningful conversations drew out some anxiety about growing up, having so many things to learn, and having to get a job.

And so, this is where I could relate.  It was a question that I dreaded even asking myself.  Even when I was 35.  Until I realised that you don’t have to do one thing. You don’t have to put yourself in a box.  You can change, you can adapt and you can grow.  Have goals, sure.  But don’t give yourself premature grey hairs trying to figure out the ONE THING.  

After sharing this with my son, he was visibly relieved.

It may be a seemingly innocent question for some, but it can cause undue stress.

Perhaps a better question is “what do you want to do?”

“What do you want to do?” includes hobbies, dreams, jobs, a bucket list, anything! It’s a less loaded question.

But perhaps, just perhaps we should stop pushing kids to think about growing up. They are really good at living in the moment. How about we leave them to it for now? If you want to get to know a child ask them, “What do you love to do?”

After all, what you love to do and your job are not always the same thing.

And that’s ok.


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