11 September 2014

When I Grow Up

Not long ago, just before the school year began, the Doozer and I were out in the yard, playing around, when he stopped and asked, “What did you want to be when you grew up?”

At first, it seemed like it was out of the blue. But it was clearly something that had been on his mind, something he’d earlier discussed with his mother. And his question was innocuous enough. Just curious, not cutting. But still. It could easily be interpreted as, This isn’t what you really wanted, is it? You have to have had other ideas.

Tell me you had other ideas.

I thought for a moment about how to answer. I mean, here’s the thing. I used to have hopes, dreams, ambitions, aspirations. Now I look forward to a day when I don’t have to wipe another person’s bum.

So I told him my dream. About being a writer. And then something occurred to me, which I hadn’t necessarily thought of before, or thought of in these terms.

I’ll tell you a secret, I added. Your mom and I. We’re not really grown up. Not yet.

He didn’t entirely understand. Gave me a quizzical expression. For his experience of the world, the wife and I are as old as the moon. How could we not be grown up? He said as much.

I tried to explain. Life is a process. Ongoing. Things change every day. People change every day.

More quizzical looks. And then a plea to play tag. Our entire conversation forgotten.

But still, that conversation got me thinking. What kind of parent would I be if I didn’t dream? If I didn’t have desires or ambitions or crazy hopes? How do I inspire him and his brother to have dreams, if I don’t at least try to demonstrate what it looks like to dream?

On the first day of first grade, just like on the first day of Kindergarten, he told us he wanted to be a Lego designer when he grew up. I’m thinking if you take a gander at your Facebook news feed and check out the signs other kids held up on the first day of school, you would not see this one. Firefighter, maybe. Or cowboy. Princess. But not this.

His obsession with Legos has led him to the Lego website, where he spends a lot of time watching videos and looking at images of sets he would like to own. But his favorite part is the videos where the designers discuss their process and show off all the details of their sets.

He’s interested in a process, not just a thing. That spark needs to be nurtured. Of course, will Lego designer even be a job when he grows up? I don’t know. And he’s 6, so obviously he might change his mind. He will probably change his mind. But this seems like an important part of being their dad. To encourage them to dream. To reach for the stars. And think big. Maybe that’s my whole job, actually.

Apart from that whole stupid wiping bums thing. God, I hate that part. 

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