This question dips a ladle into the child’s imaginary world. What do I want to be, you ask?
For once, the adults are playing too. Taken seriously for a magical moment, the words flow. A firefighter! A movie star! A famous artist! The door has been opened and we must leap through.
The insight that it is a joy to the child to be asked came from my eighteen-year-old son. At five, he told dozens of people that he wanted to be an inventor. He published a little paper called Invention Town.
There is danger in answering, because grownups aren’t very good at games. They will bring it up tomorrow like homework when we are climbing the apple tree and sliding down the rainbow.
I have always cringed when people asked my children this question. It wants to box all that crackling wonder into a pre-fab neighborhood of ideas.
But, I learn from my own offspring, that the magnificent hope of the child is more than equal to whatever awkward notions his elders may have.
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