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What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Photograph by Getty Images

“What do you want to be when you grow up?" is a question I ask my daughter about once a week. I remember when I was a kid, adults would ask me the same thing and I always found it annoying. But here I am decades later, asking the same question of my daughter and asking it often.

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I have become fascinated by the question and the answer. It is an interesting gauge of where my daughter’s passions lie and what, in this window of time, her hopes and dreams are. When I asked my 8-year-old this week what she wanted to be, her answer was “animator, game developer or My Little Pony creator.” Doing something that has to do with cartoons or entertainment has been a mainstay in her answers for years: some practical, others not so much. When she was about 4, she told me when she grew up she wanted to be a baker, but she would only make Scooby snacks. But one thing I noticed not just with my child but other kids—the answers are vastly different from when I was a child.

Back when I was a kid, when the teacher would ask my fellow students and me what we wanted to be when we grew up, there were always the same answers over and over again: teacher, doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, fireman and President. I asked my pals on Facebook what their kids under the age of 10 wanted to be, and the results were as follows:

Secret agent

Break dancer

Princess

The Hulk

Movie director (3 said this)

Singer

Blogger

Chef

Video game designer (3 said this)

Mathematician

Jockey

Artist (2 said this)

Doctor

Veterinarian (4 said this)

Mermaid

Travel writer

Dog walker

Like Elsa

Car designer

Professional athlete (2 said this)

Ballerina (2 said this)

Teacher (4 said this)

Lego master

Engineer (2 said this)

Lawyer (2 said this)

Architect

Fisherman (*but not on a boat, only from riverbanks)

Dairy farmer

Batman

Race car driver

Hairdresser

Train conductor (2 said this)

You know what I see when I look at this list? That it is eclectic, creative and doesn’t resemble the answers from my childhood. First off, there are some new careers on here such as Lego master, video game designer and blogger. These weren’t jobs when I was young, but now they are legitimate career choices.

The absences are noticeable as well. While veterinarian, teacher and lawyer still are dream jobs, not one kid said firefighter or President of the United States—which was surprising. While being a firefighter is a noble career, perhaps this post-9/11 generation is more mindful of the dangers involved with the job. And as for President, we live in an era where everyone, including children, understand what a tough job it is. When I asked my daughter if she would ever want to be President, she said, “No way! You are always busy, you don’t get to do what you want and you have to work, like, every single day.”

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But the most poignant thing about this list was that these kids believe they can be anything when they grow up, from being “like Elsa,” to a jockey or secret agent. Let’s hope some of their dreams come true.

What does your kid want to be when she grows up?

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