I asked my son “the question” for the first time. “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Ryan is three-and-a-half-years old, and up until now, the conversation had never come up. But we were reading (and re-reading) the charming Tina Louise book When I Grow Up, and I was curious. What was my little boy thinking? Which scenario did he picture himself in?
His answer, and the way he answered, surprised me.
He stopped, put his finger to his chin, giving my question careful consideration and answered, “A firefighter.” My son has never demonstrated an enthusiasm for any firefighter-related subjects. We visit our neighborhood firehouse each year on its open house, we listen for sirens, notice some firetrucks are larger than others, but that’s about it. And yet from all the careers mentioned in the book (teacher, nurse, fashion designer, president, Olympic athlete, magician, police officer, scuba diver, archaeologist), he saw himself as a firefighter.
But then came my favorite part of his response. Ryan asked, “What else?”
I love this freedom, my son’s utter belief that he doesn’t have to restrict himself to one answer, and that any career is possible. Because it’s true. It’s true for all of us until someone tells us otherwise.
No one has yet put any labels or limits or restrictions on my son. No one has told him he’s good at this and not so good at that, and for those reasons his career choices are already decided for him.
I wish I felt that same confidence. I wish I saw a world of opportunities and possibilities open to me. Maybe then I would be more brave and undaunted and more willing to make a change with my own career.
With kids,you never know. I can ask my son “the question” next week and get an entirely different answer. I might ask him again and receive the same “firefighter” reply. Whatever his answer, my response will be the same, “You can be anything you want.”