Aha, that same difficult question again? I said to myself as I looked at the boy from afar, curiously waiting with concealed excitement for his answer.
The age-old question never fails to thrill me. Please, please let it be Superman or Batman or James Bond, I was quietly hoping. The 7-year-old boy was obviously baffled.
He gave the old man a deep frown and that “what-kind-of-a-question-was-that” look and to my disappointment, he blurted “I don’t know”.
Yes, you get that kind of reaction from the younger generation today. That’s a good topic for another discussion.
Seriously, you should not ask any kid that kind of question. For what purpose? But, we keep on doing so, perhaps due to our culture. I don’t know. It has become a norm.
It’s like parents should expect to hear this question posed to their children every now and then, as if they, at the tender age of 7, have already decided what they want to be.
Would you expect the answer to be “I want to be a gynaecologist?” Of course, not. But, that’s the answer I told my boys to give if they were to be asked about their ambitions by their uncles or aunts.
Let’s spook them, I told my boys. I, for sure, had problems answering that question when I was a child. It filled with me anxiety. I had to think of a good job as an answer and, subsequently, lie to appease the elders.
PETALING JAYA 28 February 2013. 'Firemen' putting out a fire at a hotel at KidZania first anniversay celebration. NSTP/Syaharim Abidin
As if at 7, I could think ahead and was visionary when I still had problems tying my shoelaces.
Later, I learned to give standard answers, either a doctor or lawyer which I am not right now although I can self-treat my stress and not-too-often successfully argue my cases with my queen and little princess at home.
I also had a hard time thinking and stating my three choices cita-cita (ambitions) in my report card, every year during my primary school years in the 1970s.
I remember writing Batman, Superman and Ultraman and got an earful from my teacher.
Why can’t I be like Batman? Rich, beautiful car, nice suit and I get to beat up bad people with my identity protected.
So, I wrote soldier, police and teacher. My class teacher was happy, for the obvious choices. This problem continued to plague me in secondary school.
I still had problems deciding what I wanted to be or do. After getting my Sijil Rendah Pelajaran results, I had to choose either to enrol myself in the Science or Social Science streams.
As I was studying at a full-boarding school, I had no one, except my class and dorm friends, to consult with. At 16, the majority of us did not have the slightest idea what we wanted to be.
So, the majority of our decisions was based on our interests or on what we hated the most at that time. I also learned later on that I had many interests and they changed after several years.
I also discovered that each time I became interested in something, I would dive into it and become good at it until I started to get bored or when it strikes me to ask “What’s next?”
I recently checked with my boys whether they were also required to write three occupation choices and they answered in the negative. That’s good, I thought.
I stopped asking children, a long time ago, what they want to be when they grow up. This is after I learned about multi-potential people and there are many of us, multipotentialites.
It’s an educational and psychological term referring to a pattern found among individuals who have diverse interests across numerous domains and capable of success in many endeavours or professions.
Most times, they are confronted with unique decisions as a result of these choices. We are special but we are not specialists. I was good in soccer but because I was wearing glasses I had to choose hockey and ended up representing my district at the secondary level and later my university at the matriculation level.
I played rugby too at the college level. I was also good at table tennis and a chess champion in primary school. I also took up cooking, became engrossed in it to the extent of creating my own recipes.
I had no problems hosting and catering to a battalion of 30 people. I was a farmer and a teacher, too. I taught myself to swim and, who knows,
I could immerse myself in scuba diving next after I have, hopefully, become a one-star horseman in the next couple of years.
So, if your child is showing signs of this “condition”, fret not. If he says he wants to be Superman, let him be. “Yes, go help poor and helpless people,”
I would say. Yes, they need guidance from us, parents, when it comes to choosing their careers. But, if they are interested in something, I’d suggest letting them pursue their interest and enjoy life. It’s a pity to see “specialists” whose only passion is their profession.
The world needs us, multipotentialites. We are not boring people because we have a lot of interests.
To quote a line from William Wallace (played by Mel Gibson) in the movie Braveheart, “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”