Who Do You Want To Be? : On the Future of Children’s Futures

I am twenty three.  23.  That is two whole decades and then some.

When I was ten, I thought twenty was lightyears away; that to get there, time and space would move so quickly that I’d wake up and one day my life would just be laid out for me.

I remember we would have to tell adults what we would want to be when we grew up.  It was and still is my least favorite question. Hell, I didn’t even know what I would be doing during recess…how was ten year old me supposed to know what I wanted to do as a viable career?

At the time, I didn’t know why I disliked the idea of thinking about my future so much.  But, looking back, I know.  For children, and even for adults, there is no wiggle room and definitely no such thing as a gap year.  Your future as a grown up meant a job title.  Lawyer.  Doctor. Teacher. Defined roles and no time for a discussion of you as a fully functioning little human.

I am doing my damnedest to reverse that thought process.

Maybe because when we teach children occupations as aspirations instead of qualities or convictions, we will inevitably become adults that focus on structure, on job titles, on climbing the ladder.

Children are grown enough to take stock of what we ask of them.  They’re smart enough to realize what others value and what they don’t.   So what if we gave them real opportunities to show us who they are now and who they could be down the line?  They may not know what they want to do for a living, but we can teach them how to live.

And sure, maybe “compassionate” or “inquisitive” isn’t exactly a great selling point in asking for a pay raise.  But what if it was?  And what if those things weren’t just words we used to make us feel better when the world deals us all a shitty hand?  What if we put true value in qualities that make up beautiful, loving humans?  What if instead of asking “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, we started asking children “Who do you want to be? And how are you going to get there?”

I am going to try and do this with the young ones in my life, and I encourage you to do the same.  What are some other questions we could be asking children in our lives?  Share what you do to help validate our children and encourage their growth!

 

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