For all the people whose arm hairs are already standing from the headline, I appreciate and admire doctors; it is a heroic profession in every community. On the other hand, it is one of the professions (lawyers and engineers included) that most parents pick when highlighting what a successful career looks like. My six year old son has the dream of becoming an astronaut who is also a Pokémon catcher. I asked him why he dreams of being an Astronaut Pokémon Catcher and he reasons there are a lot of Pokémon in space that no one is able to catch because they don't know how to get there! I absolutely loved his answer but it got me thinking about how other children's dream professions are being received.
I recently listened to an episode on Oprah's Super Soul podcast where she is talking to Paulo Coelho, one of the most, if not the most, famous Brazilian novelist and mastermind behind The Alchemist. In the podcast, he speaks about being committed into an insane asylum three times because he would not conform to his family's belief of what a successful career looks like. I realize that that was a different time. Today, a parent/guardian cannot lawfully commit a child to an insane asylum due to conformity. Yay for societal growth! That being said, we (parents/guardians) are okay shaming our children's dream professions, verbally telling them they are not aiming high enough and letting them know that their dreams are not careers but hobbies. We tell our children to be themselves and be creative but this is only in the confines of child's play and doodling. When the question about professional goals and dreams comes up, we forget the freedom and creativity we ask of our children and narrow their possibilities to maybe ten options and tell them to pick from those.
In a biography written about his life, Coelho responds to his upbringing by stating that he has forgiven his parents because "It happens with love, all the time - when you have this love towards someone else, but you want this person to change, to be like you. And then love can be very destructive." I love his way of looking at this, whether this took therapeutic intervention to get there or wisdom with age, I think he has nailed it to a T. We mean well as parents or guardians, we just want to see our children succeed and become financially stable as adults. What we forget is that what we are actually doing is instilling a fear in our children that there is a wrong answer to certain questions and there is a right answer if you pick mom and dad's answer. Instead of telling our children what to think, we do a better job as parents/guardians when we teach our children how to think. Instead of saying "I think..." let us practice saying "why do you think...?" It allows us to listen and more importantly we begin to understand our children better as individuals with likes and dislikes that vary from our own.
We are not doing our children any favors by manipulating their perception of what they should be when they grow up. In my opinion, as a parent, if you are not ready to cheer loudly at your child's aspirations, do not ask the question.
Let us be our children's biggest cheerleaders because career success will come when they do something they are good at and have passion for.
With my pom poms up in the air, I applaud William for wanting to become an Astronaut Pokémon Catcher!
What do your children want to be when they grow up? Djuuno would love to host an activity in Malmo for children with similar interests as yours.