One of my favorite questions to ask adults is, “What did six-year-old you think you’d be by now?”
Six-year-old me thought she’d be a writer. Current me is both sort of that and pretty far from it.
Talking with my kids about this is incredibly interesting, because they so clearly understand who they are, even at young ages.
Petra has finally decided that she would like to grow up, after at least a year of refusing to engage with the idea that this is something that will happen. And she wants to “be a scientist who studies life long ago.” It’s a good fit for my little scientist.
She certainly doesn’t mind digging in the dirt, she is a fast learner, she’s amazing at puzzles (she can do 100-piece puzzles ALL BY HERSELF), and she’s intrigued by dinosaurs. Also, not easily intimidated by big words or complex ideas. She constantly asks how things fit together and how they work. She loves talking about how our bodies are put together. We have a book that lets you “look inside” the human body, and she turns the pages and tells me all about the circulatory system and the muscles.
In general, she’s fascinated by how nature works. My mom took her to a bee event at the children’s museum in Winchester, and subsequently sent me lots of pictures of her pretending to pollinate the flowers (and she was apparently saying, “I am a bee! I am pollinating the flowers!”)
She wanders around the house singing “I Am A Paleontologist.” It is adorable.
She also takes zero crap from anybody, which will serve her well as a woman in a male-dominated field.
Silas is so different from her, it’s hard to fathom how they come from the same roots. He loves legends and magic. They both like to see plays, but he gets absorbed in the process. Maybe he’ll grow up to be one of those actors who is super introverted, but loves being on stage all the same–my favorite kind of actors–but right now, he’s much more interested in watching things happen.
He likes taking goofy selfies as much as the next kid, but he gets super focused when he’s behind the camera, or in the booth, or backstage.
When I see this kind of focus, that’s where I hear his calling. Petra gets this way when she’s working on a puzzle, and Silas gets it when he’s drawing or telling a story or watching a play. He doesn’t just look for the story, he notices all the little ways that the artists create it. He’d make a good director–he’s a great collaborator, highly empathetic, and, even at six, has a strong understanding of how stories fit together (not many other little kids would ask, “Is Elsa an antihero?” or be able to identify the inciting incident in The Gruffalo (“This story doesn’t have much beginning, Mama. The inciting incident is in the second line!”). But he loves pushing buttons and seeing big magic happen.
Right now, if you ask Silas what he wants to be when he grows up, he says, “Either a Pokemon trainer or a lighting designer. And a daddy.” He idolizes my friend David, who has designed lights for many of my shows. When he sees a cool effect, he wants to know how it works, and he can often can figure it out. He was four when we went to Disney World, and he learned to calm himself on the scariest rides by looking for the lighting instruments that were producing the terrifying effects. He notices the way light moves in the world–he was the first to draw our attention to Petra’s magic dress, he loves the way sunlight through our upper porch makes stripes on the lower one, and he’s constantly trying to turn the lights off to make the room really dark so he can experiment with his little toy projector.
Watching them figure out who they are in the world is so fascinating. I’m observing them as they unfold and just wondering where they’ll end up.
Once, Silas asked me what I hope he is when he grows up. I said, “Kind and happy,” which was not an answer that he found satisfactory, but really, it’s all I need for him to be.