It was Thursday evening. I’d worked late to get ahead before going off on vacation and arrived home just as the kids were getting ready for bed. I made it, I sighed, knowing that a book and a snuggle was just what I needed to ease myself out of work mode.
“What about our costumes, Mommy?” says my eight-year-old, Anna.
Oh yes, the costumes. I do remember the sign that appeared on the doors to their summer camp on Wednesday: Have your campers dress as what they want to be when they grow up this Friday. Ugh. Can’t they just have “green day” or something easy? Of course, the notice went into my brain and directly out once I got to work. As for my husband who did pick-up that day? “What sign?” he asked.
So the kids are ready for bed, I’m ready to fall over, but a costume day can’t be ignored. “Anna—what do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask, hoping, for once, Anna can give me a simple, decisive answer to a question I ask her. No luck. “I have to think about it!” she exclaims. “It’s a big decision.” I assure her that her answer is not written in stone. In fact, this is her chance to choose something she doesn’t necessarily want to be, but that we have the clothes for. Maybe she could be a teacher, I suggest. Once I let her wear a fancy necklace of mine, she’s on board, putting together a skirt, a shirt with a collar and a pair of glasses. “I know teachers don’t have to wear glasses,” she says. “It’s a stereotype. But it’s just my way of looking different than I do every other day.” Good enough. This might have been the easiest solution to a situation we’ve ever come up with. Of course, it doesn’t end there. Once I snuggle in with her for a few minutes, she is angsty. “I don’t really want to be a teacher,” she sighs. “Not in real life.” I ask her what she thinks she wants to be. “I just don’t know,” more sighs. “But I think I want to be an explorer. I want to travel around to different countries and learn all about them.” I ask her if she wants to be a travel writer. “No, I’d keep notes, but only for myself. I just want to explore the world. There’s so much to see! Maybe I’ll go to a different place every day for my whole life once I become an adult.” Can you hear my heart bursting with joy? It was. “But for tomorrow, it will be fun to pretend to be a teacher.”
On to the next bed. My five-year-old, Avery, has pulled pretty much everything out of her closet in her quest for a costume. “I want to be a doctor,” she says. “But nothing here works.” She’s right. I consider reminding her that our doctor just dresses in normal clothes when we see her at appointments, but I know that normal clothes aren’t any fun on dress-up day. I also know we have a doctor’s kit somewhere. Somewhere. Where? No idea. And no energy to dig in the dark recesses of where it might be. “If being a doctor was not an option, what else might you want to be?” I ask her. She ponders this. And ponders. It’s way past bedtime. “I only want to be a doctor and a mom,” she decides. OK, we can work with this! I tell her that she can totally dress up as a mom and she is beyond excited. “So what do you think you need to dress up as a mom?” I ask. Her answer is quick: “Lipstick and sunglasses.” Huh? I clearly make motherhood look very glamorous. “And a baby!” she adds. Of course. So she picks out her favourite dress, also borrows a necklace from me, and I teach her how to swaddle one of her dolls. She is thrilled with her costume, and I’m over the moon to tuck her into bed, finally.
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I lie down beside her, making room for her precious swaddled bundle she’s cuddling up with. “What kind of doctor do you want to be?” I ask, thinking about sitting in a stuffy, packed auditorium waiting to stand up and cheer when they call her name, totally embarrassing her. I imagine Avery saying she wants to be a veterinarian or a paediatrican. “I want to be the kind of doctor who puts braces on people’s teeth,” she says instead. I didn’t see that one coming. “Wouldn’t it be fun to put on those gloves and touch people’s teeth?” (Ewww, not to me!)
So I potentially have a world explorer and an orthodontist on my hands. I don’t know if that translates to the younger one rolling her eyes and sending money orders for plane tickets or get-out-of-jail cards for her older sister in some far-flung locale, but it definitely means we’d better not slack on those RESP contributions.
What do your kids want to be when they grow up? Does it change by the day, or do they have their hearts set on something?
Follow along as Today’s Parent senior editor Tracy Chappell shares her refreshingly positive take on parenting her two young daughters. She’s been blogging her relatable experiences for our publication since 2005. Read more of her Tracy’s mama memoir posts and tweet her@T_Chappell.