Why We Don’t Tell Our Kids They Can be Anything They Want
January 11, 2017 26 Comments
It’s preached everywhere: “Believe, and it will happen.”
“Trust and you will find.”
“Try and you will succeed.”
“You can be anything you want to be and more.”
Once you get to a certain age you realize that’s all crap. Because, you know, when I was little, I believed I’d be an astronaut and go to the moon (there have only been twelve manned moon landings since 1969). I also wanted to be a cartoonist for a newspaper strip, but that was before I learned that Jim Davis already had the market cornered in that department.
The problem with me, then? Well, I believe there were two issues.
- My expectations were unrealistic. I hate science and always have, so any chance of me becoming an astronaut were doomed to begin with. And, even after some art classes, my cartoons were mediocre at best.
- I wasn’t consistent. I bounced around from one cool potential career to the next, whichever sounded most appealing at the time. Usually I was inspired by pop culture, and never really tapped into what I – little Andy – really wanted to do with my life.
Now that I’m a dad, I’m careful not to tell my kids they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, because let’s be honest: My daughter is too tall to be an Olympic gymnast. My son is too sensitive to be a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, and so far his hand-eye coordination is as great as his dad’s – never mind hitting the broadside of a barn, we’re lucky just to make the ball past the fence.
I love the movie Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph didn’t want to be a bad guy anymore, and no matter how many medals he won or good deeds he performed, he was always going to be a bad guy. But he learned to make peace with it.
An even better one is the bold Monsters University, where young Mike wants to be a scarer, but he really just sucks at it. He’s small, puny, and pretty funny looking.
No, as much as I would like to change things, our kids cannot be anything they want to be. It’s just not realistic, and beyond that, it’s a lie.
That’s not to say that if they worked and studied hard enough that they can’t become doctors and lawyers, business owners and CEO’s, or any other profession that requires a large degree of panache and brains. And as their parents, we’ll support them in every way.
But if my son dreams of making it on Juggling with the Stars in sixteen years but he can’t juggle any more than his daily chores, then I’m going to be flat-out honest with him and suggest that maybe he could coach someone to juggle or something.
But whatever they set their mind to, it is my hope that not only is it achievable within their skill set, but that they stick with it and don’t give up.