Why We Don’t Tell Our Kids They Can be Anything They Want

It’s preached everywhere: “Believe, and it will happen.”

“Trust and you will find.”

“Try and you will succeed.”

“You can be anything you want to be and more.”

Once you get to a certain age you realize that’s all crap. Because, you know, when I was little, I believed I’d be an astronaut and go to the moon (there have only been twelve manned moon landings since 1969). I also wanted to be a cartoonist for a newspaper strip, but that was before I learned that Jim Davis already had the market cornered in that department.

The problem with me, then? Well, I believe there were two issues.

  1. My expectations were unrealistic. I hate science and always have, so any chance of me becoming an astronaut were doomed to begin with. And, even after some art classes, my cartoons were mediocre at best.
  2. I wasn’t consistent. I bounced around from one cool potential career to the next, whichever sounded most appealing at the time. Usually I was inspired by pop culture, and never really tapped into what I – little Andy – really wanted to do with my life.

Now that I’m a dad, I’m careful not to tell my kids they can be anything they want to be when they grow up, because let’s be honest: My daughter is too tall to be an Olympic gymnast. My son is too sensitive to be a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys, and so far his hand-eye coordination is as great as his dad’s – never mind hitting the broadside of a barn, we’re lucky just to make the ball past the fence.

I love the movie Wreck-It Ralph. Ralph didn’t want to be a bad guy anymore, and no matter 982468_032how many medals he won or good deeds he performed, he was always going to be a bad guy. But he learned to make peace with it.

An even better one is the bold Monsters University, where young Mike wants to be a scarer, but he really just sucks at it. He’s small, puny, and pretty funny looking.

No, as much as I would like to change things, our kids cannot be anything they want to be. It’s just not realistic, and beyond that, it’s a lie.

That’s not to say that if they worked and studied hard enough that they can’t become doctors and lawyers, business owners and CEO’s, or any other profession that requires a large degree of panache and brains. And as their parents, we’ll support them in every way.

But if my son dreams of making it on Juggling with the Stars in sixteen years but he can’t juggle any more than his daily chores, then I’m going to be flat-out honest with him and suggest that maybe he could coach someone to juggle or something.

But whatever they set their mind to, it is my hope that not only is it achievable within their skill set, but that they stick with it and don’t give up.

Published by Andrew Toy

Writer when I'm not being a husband or dad. So mostly just a husband and dad.

26 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Tell Our Kids They Can be Anything They Want

  1. i agree but as Nas sang “i know i can be what i wanna be, if i work hard at it, i’ll be where i wanna be”….at some point if they work harder and smarter they can make it


    1. But in a lot of instances, they also have to be discovered and chosen. That’s a whole different issue, no matter how hard they work.


  2. I don’t agree that anyone can become a doctor, lawyer or CEO any more than anyone can become a movie star. Some people are just hard-wired to be musicians or writers and there’s nothing they can do about it – it’s a hard road and they need all the encouragement they can get.


    1. You’re right. Such as myself, I’m hard-wired to write and tell stories. Nothing makes me feel more valued, however, I HAVE to pay the bills to support myself and my family, which is why I work at a day job I hate more than anything on the planet. Because right now, my writing isn’t going to pay next month’s mortgage.


  3. I agree with you! I don’t have chitlins, but I know I’m not becoming the next astronaut 🚀
    There’s a fine line between realism and squashing dreams.
    Be realistic, that’s all. Know thyself 😉 and what you’re capable of.
    I’m a jack of all trades. I’ve not been committed to one career all my life. I’ve been in truck driving, diamond sales, real estate, printing, antiques, and horticulture (now moving into non profit). I am slightly jealous of the folks that can pick one thing and stick with it. Me? Once I feel comfortable in a job… I feel the need to change. Many poo-poo me and think I’m crazy for living my life this way. However, I’ve never been on gov aid and have been able to feed, own homes and entertain myself.


    1. Midwestern Plant Girl: Please know that not everyone poo-poo’s your lifestyle. In fact, I am envious. I have been in the same business (not the same position) for 40 years and wish I had been adventurous enough to try other things. I can just imagine how well-rounded you must be and I’m sure you can carry on a lively conversation about many subjects. So…as long as you are making an honest living, keep doing it your way!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Awe! Thank you Janet!! 😚😘
        I guess it would be different if I wasn’t successful in my endeavors. Luckily, I am able to learn quickly and love the challenges. I just can’t handle complacency. Once I’m comfortable, I feel another journey tugging at my sleeve.
        I do wonder what it would be like to have 40 years experience in one thing. I bet you know a lot about your biz!! 😆
        Have a wonderful day!


  4. I don’t think I agree. I believe that I can be anything I want to be. HOWEVER . . . If I choose something that is lofty, difficult, challenging, or nearly impossible, I am going to need to make all kinds of sacrifices. I am going to need to give up my time, my friends, my world – all kinds of things – in order to march towards my lofty, difficult, and challenging plan. I do agree that the “work extremely hard” part is simply glossed over when we talk about being anything you want to be.


    1. I think you are right if the thing you want to be is something you can work towards (no matter how difficult of work it might be, like you said, there are things that can be given up if needed). However, if it is something you have to be “picked” for or chosen to be, then the hard work might never be enough and you may never know why (example, becoming a partner at a law/legal firm or some other job title that requires a promotion and not everyone makes the cut).


    2. But I have a heart condition and the Army won’t take me as a result… All that hard work would actually drive me toward a heart attack.


      1. Andrew – you have to make that call. Not me. I have no right to either tell you that you can or can not accomplish something. You must have the ability to make that decision for yourself.


  5. I didn’t beleive it as a kid but I beleive it more now as an adult. I think it just sounds annoying when your not in that state of mind.


      1. So many things, I’ve put the ‘create your own reality’ theory to the test a lot, sometimes unknowingly. Thinking things like ‘I’m stuck in this job’ or ‘it’s out of my control’ actually made me feel powerless, and so I created that reality for myself, but testing it out in a optimistic way also worked, imagine something small and fun and see how long it takes before things start to unfold.


          1. I beleive that what your train of thought is lined up with becomes reality to you. Our actions will reflect how we are thinking, of course it takes time to see it happen, since out train of thought usually takes a while to change course, that why I’d experiment with something very little first. So, if you think ‘I wish I had the extra money to buy _____, that would really make me feel good’ what you are really saying is ‘I don’t have enough money to feel good’ and so that’s a reality you just created for yourself. Or you could look at the item that you don’t own yet and feel good knowing that you will one day have enough money to buy it. You can feel good about yourself and your finances by happily day dreaming about your big screen tv, or dream car, knowing that you have pleanty of time to make money and to buy whatever it is that makes you feel good.

            Now, you would have created a reality for yourself that made having enough money to buy what you want completely possible.


  6. It especially irritates me when people tell my disabled kidults they can be anything they want to be when we (the grown child & I) are actually looking for a meaningful conversation and extra information. There are some jobs that seem great from the outside but 90% of the time are not at all what is wanted.


    1. I’m sorry to hear that. I can easily understand how irritating that can be. I definitely don’t want my kids’ ears and minds being filled with fluff from people who have the ability to be realistic.


  7. Having a kid with a chronic, life-threatening illness and having a naturally blunt attitude makes this an interesting area for me when it comes to her talking about what she wants to be when she grows up. Her health is always going to be an obstacle (and that’s assuming she lives past puberty.)

    I’m already raising her to understand she can never have children on her own. “You’ll get to be a special type of mommy, because you’ll give all the babies love that other people couldn’t.”

    She talked of being an astronaut, and I told her “Not with your health, you aren’t. Sorry sweetcheeks, keep it grounded. They wouldn’t let you fly into space.” But immediately went on to tell her that there were lots of other cool things she could become that wouldn’t be as limited by her health.

    I believe in being honest, but supportive. And sometimes that can be hard one!


    1. That is such a hard situation, and I cannot apologize enough. But it seems like you’re being awesome at living in reality, something I struggle with on a regular basis.


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