When I Grow Up.
I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but what we Americans love about the New Year is the titillating possibility of change. Out with the old; in with the Better You. It’s that sweet period that feels flush with promise and all that lay ahead. Even in funky times, we embrace optimism and pretend that we will utterly change ourselves and transform our lives. For me, New Years always means ambitious plans ranging from the mundane to the irrational: flossing daily, bungee jumping, enduring hot power yoga, producing award-winning documentary films in Third World countries, becoming fluent in Spanish, climbing Machu Pichu, writing the Great American novel, and cleaning out my underwear drawer.
Most of my goals seem to fade out by mid-March, but his year feels like we have a second chance to feel invigorated by a fresh start and real change. In about a week we will have a new president and the first black family will move into the White House. History is happening. In our country, ANYTHING really is possible.
So tapping into that sunny, syrupy, shamelessly American/Bob the Builder, “We Can Do It, Yes, We Can,” attitude, I thought now was the perfect time to take the temperature of America’s children. Do they feel optimistic about their future? Are they ambitious? What do they want to be when they grow up? Are they sticking to stereotypes? Or are we living in a post-gender age where boys dream of having a gaggle of kids and girls plan on playing professional hockey?
So I decided to conduct an unscientific survey of our kids. When I say unscientific, I mean I asked my friends to ask their kids and than ask their kids’ friends what they wanted to be when they grew up. Given that the average age of my survey pool was six and a half years old, the sampling was indeed limited and further compromised by my just reaching out to the people I knew. But the results were still revealing.
Starting with my own daughter Lexi, my survey found that kids are only mildly persuaded by their parents’ influence. Case in point: I spent oodles of time in the past year exposing my children to politics, namely the presidential election. I hauled my kids to Allentown, PA, to canvass for Obama and took them to campaign headquarters where they consumed candy while I made voter phone calls. They caught debate highlights on the Today Show, could distinguish Sarah Palin from Hillary Clinton, and enjoyed the children’s books I read to them about running for president. So when I asked Lexi, 5, what she wanted to be when she grew up and asked specifically about whether President of the United States was on the list (yes, it was a leading question) she said to me incredulously, “Mommy, I TOLD you I wanted to be a cheerleader when I grow up, NOT president!” It seems “High School Musical” has considerably more impact in my house than CNN’s political coverage.