At first, I was not very imaginative-my childhood choices varied between fireman, police officer and jet pilot to lawyer, even priest on an occasion or two. I suspect other kids did more or less the same thing. Later I came to suspect the reason adults ask kids this question is because they are looking for ideas Alexis Texas.
If I had my wasted youth to relive, I’d come up with some zinger career choices-all designed to play with adult minds a little. I’d offer a medley of career choices to suit my mood-“nun” might be a fun answer. Other attractive possibilities might be pornstar, homeless person, corrupt public official, best-selling freethinker book author and computer geek. Of course, the latter would not make much sense during my K-8 (1940’s) and high school (1950’s) years.
Today, I think the question is old fashioned and silly, and should not be asked. Kids have no idea what they want to be-they parrot answers they think adults want to hear. But, I do have a suggestion for a similar but what seems a more functional question to put to kids. One that will do them some good to think about.
Ask them HOW they would like to be when they grow up.
Kids won’t comprehend what’s being asked the first time they hear such a question. But, soon enough, they will recognize that they are being invited to think about future quality of life. They will realize they are being asked how healthy, how vital and how happy they want to be-in the future. They will even become adept, after thinking about it, about the extent to which they might want to have interesting skills and passions. This HOW question invites children to think of how they want to look, feel, be able to move about-and such thoughts will soon enough help them to realize that such states are related to how they will live now and as time passes, not what they will be doing for a livingroom.
In framing responses, they will also be thinking of images left by such prominent adults as mom and dad, grandparents and other older folks whom they observe in their lives today.
If you think this shift from the WHAT to the HOW makes sense, please consider doing two things:
Try the HOW version of the perennial question on a young person. Since he/she is unlikely to have heard it before, explain the nature of the answer you are looking for. (Example: “Do you want to be active and cheerful, healthy and lots of fun, like Aunt Matilda or Uncle Rufus, or do you want to be like ____ or ____?” (Tip: Pick the name of someone known to the child who is a physical wreck, cranky and not much fun). This discussion will quickly segue into a conversation about the importance of how we exercise, eat and look after ourselves.
Ask yourself what kind of a role model do you want to be for children who might be asked this question. Do you want to be looking and functioning in a positive way, a manner in which a child would want to be like someday, or do you want to serve as a warning against the hazards of poor self-care over the years?
Now that I think about it, I’m going to start taking better care of myself. I want to be a proper model for what young people will consider a pretty good example of HOW they want to turn out in the distant future, which of course will appear much sooner than any might expect.
In thinking about all those career choices noted above, I must say I’m still, even at my advanced age, interested in growing up to be one of those things, namely, a best-selling author of freethinker books. (Why I would or would not want to be a pornstar might be the subject for a future essay.) However, I know that if I want to look good, have lots of energy, be fun to hang out with and be a positive role model for kids, I have to make good choices. Then I can grow up healthy and remain that way as long as genetics and random chance allow.