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Adult Life to Kids: Lost in Translation

Photograph by Getty Images

My 7-year-old daughter "knows" what she is going to be when she grows up, where she is going to live, who she is going to marry, how many kids they will have. She's got it all planned out, and it cracks me up. I remember being the exact same way when I was her age.

She wants to be a zoo veterinarian. Live in a beach condo. Marry her current best friend. And have one child.

He's on board with these plans, her friend. They both tell everyone they come into contact with about their future together.

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From my vantage point, I know what will happen to most, if not all, of this shared vision of their adult lives. But I'm not going to be bursting their bubble.

Children are the best planners. For them, anything is possible. They dream big.

When I was my daughter's age, I was going to marry my friend Tom. I had the house picked out where we would live. I constantly talked about how I planned to buy him a red lawnmower. We were going to have two kids—a boy and a girl. (I'm pretty sure I had their names picked out, too, but I can't remember now.)

Also? I wanted to be a veterinarian.

None of those things have come to pass, although Tom and I remain good friends to this day. We've shared many laughs about the plans of our younger selves.

I hope the same is true for my daughter and her friend. Then, someday many years from now, they can enjoy reminiscing about conversations like this one, which took place as I drove the two to school recently:

Him: "When we are grown up and married, we are going to have babies. And cats and dogs. And a frog. And a snake in a cage for me."

Her: "I'm going to pick out an orange cat with black stripes!"

Him: "I want to have three kids."

Her: "I want to have just one."

Him: "But I want to have three so there are lots to play with."

Me: "You guys have a long time before you have to figure that out. But it is important for couples to talk about these kind of things before they get married."

Her: "One will be enough for me."

Dreams, like play, are the work of childhood. Dreaming sets them up to be successful adults.

Him: "When we have our first baby, do you want me to go to the store to buy milk and bottles? Would that help you? I want to be supportive."

Her: "Well, maybe some bottles. But you don't need to buy milk, silly. My body will produce it."

Him: "You mean the milk that comes out of your brisks?"

Me: "I think you mean breasts, buddy. Women have breasts."

Him: "Oh yeah, breasts. Brisk is a drink."

Me: Dead.

I recognize their future partnership is not likely. Still, I thoroughly enjoy listening to them work it out. Children are the best planners. For them, anything is possible. They dream big. Exactly as it should be. They learn through dreaming. They are motivated by it. They explore the process of setting goals and taking steps needed to achieve them.

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Dreams, like play, are the work of childhood. Dreaming sets them up to be successful adults. They don't have to have it all figured out at this point. (They don't have to.) But they see how the world works and are finding their place in it.

Oh, the places they'll go! (And oh, the places they're already going.)

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