What do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

How do you help your child dream?

Is it ever too early to ask kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I don’t mean a reality check with career choices, salary and, by the way, you’re going to start paying rent (at 6 years old.) I mean developing your child. Stimulating them. Curiosity. What excites them (besides water balloons and candy?) This question inspires me to be a creative mom, but it also gives me mom anxiety.

It’s on me to create that thirst for life, give life experiences, expose culture, encourage talents and help them process their emotions along the way. Their childhood influences hard questions like “what do I want to be?” It’s not easy to balance responsibility, free spirit and parenting, but this is how I try:

Put on Your Kaleidoscope Eyes

I try to remind myself often (and some days are easier than others) to see my children through their own kaleidoscope. By this I mean, put aside my own views, judgments, society’s perspective, ambitions and predisposed descriptions of my children. We all see the world differently, and we need to let our children see their own multi-colored, beautiful, unpredictable, rainbow hodgepodge. Think about it, a kaleidoscope needs mirrors and light and through those elements, beautiful and unique reflections are created.

Go On a Magic Carpet Ride

On a work trip at the Wizard Academy, there’s a statue on campus of a boy reading a book and, above him, he’s flying on a paper airplane. I’m not sure why it stirred something in me stronger than I realized, but it did. Maybe it’s the hope and possibility I feel for my children and wanting to give them that feeling too. Yes, you can dream. Yes, good things will happen. Yes, why don’t you come with me little girl on a magic carpet ride (cue music.) Maybe that comes from being raised by a dad that helped create a soundtrack for my life (more to come on that later.) But, I love that statue and that reminder to dream.

Dream a Big Dream

Before bed, I talk about the day with my kids (unless it was a straight-to-bed-kind of day.) We talk about the best and worst part of the day, why I’m proud of them, or conversations to peek into those magical minds. I recently asked my kids “What do you want to be when you grow up?” My daughter: a princess and to be with me when she grows up (sigh, sniffle.) My son: a ninja, and he asked for a ninja outfit and gymnastics class (sigh, smile.)

The odds are clearly against my son for becoming a ninja. He doesn’t have the power of invisibility, he can’t walk on water, he is not specialized in unorthodox arts of war (except certain acts of espionage and open combat) and he was not born into a family of ninjas. Just as this profession was not passed down through the family, neither was royalty. So unless ninja and princess are in my children’s destinies, it got me thinking of different, fun ways to “educate” kids on careers.

Children Grow Up but I’d Rather Grow With

Here is an awesome career resource for guidance, from coloring pages to games and activities to “a day in the life.” It’s full of information, ideas and career websites for educating kids, from toddlers to college students. Here are easy ways for kids, big and small, to grow everyday:

  • Keep things simple. Be a kid with them. Have tools on hand, do fun crafts, play hide-and-sneak (as my son calls it,) bake with them, play store, build a fort.
  • Go Places. Visit libraries, museums, stop at the fire station, watch the baker make pastries, observe the process of a building being constructed or painted, talk to your children about your job.
  • Ask questions. Engage with your children as they watch the world around them. Their view can be amazing.
  • Read books. Subscribe to magazines with their interests. Check out this list on Amazon for different, fun children’s books on people, places and careers. And of course, I love Dr. Seuss’ Oh the Places You’ll Go.

To sum it up, I hope I can give my children the right tools, wisdom and love to be whatever it is they want to be. Here’s my definition of “career” for my children:

A ninja and a princess with kaleidoscope eyes, flying on a magic carpet. (And maybe me trying to hold on to that carpet for a little spin, too.)

I want to grow everyday. What ELSE do you want to be when you grow up?

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