Hi TEBian. Former First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, has said something striking about the famous What do you want to be when you grow up question.
“I think the most useless question an adult can ask a child is ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’” – Michelle Obama.
Often, I have thought like this, but the difference is, I thought I was being weird for thinking such. I would never have voiced it in public, much less put it out for people to read. But here is Michelle Obama, an icon, my icon, greatness and charisma personified, a woman I am very much intrigued by, voicing it loud for all to hear. In fact, she says it was the motivation for choosing her book title: Becoming.
“As if growing up is finite. As if at some point you become something and that’s the end.”
Do we ever just grow up? Like, at what point do we call ourselves grown-ups and that’s it? Is it when we graduate from high school or the university, or get our first job, or the subsequent ones? Do we ever become one thing? Should we even become one thing?
“So far in my life, I’ve been a lawyer. I’ve been a vice president at a hospital and the director of a nonprofit that helps young people build meaningful careers. I’ve been a working-class black student at a fancy mostly white college. I’ve been the only woman, the only African American, in all sorts of rooms. I’ve been a bride, a stressed-out new mother, a daughter torn up by grief. And until recently, I was the First Lady of the United States of America…”
As we grow we become club presidents, faculty leaders, SUG representatives. We become mentors, patrons and matrons, mothers and fathers, chairpersons, welfare contributors, society builders. And sometimes, we just want to become children again. So at which point have we grown up to become that singular thing?
Rather than ask a child “What do you want to become?” why not ask “What do you want to do in future?
I believe it’s more important to have a child paint a mental picture, no matter how vague, of what s(he) wishes to do with their life. This would prepare them for all they would eventually become in their lifetime.
I will give you another reason why focusing on “what to do” is better than “what to be”.
Children are naïve copycats. If they hear people repeating ‘doctor’ too often, they would say they want to become doctors. Parents are guilty of this. They would lead the child towards saying “I want to become a doctor when I grow up” just so they feel their child is going to be a badass professional.
Then while the child grows to begin understanding different paths of life, daddy and mummy keep resounding “But you said you wanted to be a doctor”.
I have an aunt that my siblings and I used to holiday with. I would watch her dress up so smartly in corporate wear every morning. I loved how she did it. I had assumed she was a banker because she worked in a bank.
So when I was asked the cliché question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I would reply excitedly “I want to become a banker”. Everyone would clap hard with broad smiles. Oh she has a bright future, all sorted out.
Then they would call out other kids who didn’t seem to know what they wanted to become, chastise them, “See your mate, she already knows what she wants to be”.
One day, mom asked me, “Why do you want to be a banker?”
That was easy. It was because of my aunt of course. “I want to dress like that to work everday!”
But my mum gave me a revelation. Guess what, my aunt wasn’t even a banker. She was an accountant. Oh how sorted out I was.
Can you see how unreliable “what you want to become” is?
In my few years so far, I have been a WAEC holder, football coach, club team leader, theatre actor and performer, faculty legislator, university graduate, Pharmacist, public speaker, TV presenter, blogger, start-up CEO… and I am still becoming.
Yet none of the above reads ‘banker’ nor ‘accountant’.
So how do you steer discussions about the future with a kid?
Take some time and ask your kid why she wants to be whatever she says she wants to become and discuss further too:
Kid: I want to be a doctor when I grow up.
You: You mean medical doctor? Because there are other doctors too, like Doctor of Philosophy, Doctor of Pharmacy, etc.
Kid: Yes, I want to be a medical doctor.
You: Is that all you want to be? Okay, why do you want to be a medical doctor?
Kid: Because I want to save people
You: Nurses save people too, so do Pharmacists, Medical Lab Scientists, etc. Even lawyers save people from prison, Social workers save people from unfair treatments, and so on.
You’re not interesting in having your child make a choice at the moment. You’re engaging her to learn that the impart is more crucial than the name. You’re stringing her to determine her passion. You’re also giving her a broader outlook on life, how various grasses come together to make a field.
Therefore, if your kid grows to be concerned about her output to the society, s(he) would serve that capacity from whatever seat s(he) seats and still feel the need to keep growing and keep becoming.
Meanwhile, try to read Becoming by Michelle Obama. Just the reviews and I’m excited, can’t wait to start the read.
Like and Share this to enlighten someone. Also let me know what you think about this assertion in the comment box. Cheers.