Saturday, July 18, 2009

You CAN'T be anything you want to be, folks

"You can be anything you want to be." "You can do anything you set your mind to."

This particular issue has come up a few times recently, and it's reminded me of the folly of so much of today's parenting. I'm not sure exactly when we started telling kids these things. But if you think about it for just a few moments, they're obviously not true.

For example, let's say little Johnny dreams all his days of being a fighter pilot ... but he grows up to be a 6' 3" man. So much for fighter pilot; they're not made to accommodate people that tall. What if little Suzy really wants to be an accountant when she grows up ... but she's terrible with math. So much for being an accountant. The list goes on; there are things in this life so far beyond our control that we simply must stop telling kids these lies.

More to the point: we are implicitly telling kids that a) life is fair, and b) they can control their own lot in life right down to the minutiae. Neither is true. Life simply is not always fair (unless you understand that what's fair would be universal condemnation, but now I'm digressing). We cannot control every detail of our life story - height, aptitude, tragedy, circumstances, etc... We are essentially building within our kids the notion that they are little gods unto themselves.

I know, I know ... that seems like I'm overplaying it. And perhaps I am; the point remains the same. Neither you nor I, nor our children or grandchildren, can be anything we want to be. I don't care how many cartoons, info-mercials or people in stuffed animal suits proclaim otherwise.

[Note: A quick search o' the internet tells me that Robert E Lee is credited with using the expression, so it's safe to assume it goes back at least that far...]


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