Friday, July 17, 2015

I Don't Know

When I was a boy, grown-ups were always asking kids, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" You quickly realized you had to have an answer, because when you replied, "I don't know," the look of disappointment on their faces told you they expected more out of you. But that was only when I was older, old enough to understand that they were asking for my "job" in the way adults ask one another, "What do you do?"

Preschoolers, however, usually just shrug because it's an unanswerable question. They're often not even sure who they're going to be after lunch, let alone 20 years in the future. For all anyone knows there might be a strong job market for princesses and superheroes, kitty cats and cowboys, so you'd better be prepared.

At any given moment we have dinosaurs and mountain lions in our room, bulldozers and fire trucks, ballerinas and race car drivers, personas tried on for an hour, a day, a week, a year, explorations in the terrain of "Who I am." The children understand that it's not about what they want to be as much as discovering who they are right now, and each time they put on a mask or a costume or just imagine it to be, they find out a little more about themselves and who they are becoming.

"What do I want to be?" is the wrong question. The question is, "Who am I and who am I becoming?" And it's not just a question for children even if they are much more comfortable with the answer, "I don't know."

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