With one month left in the school year, my son’s school creates a yearbook. (Yes, NYC schools seem to go year-round. Eat your heart out.) For this project, class parents needed to photograph each kid.
My cohort concocted the adorable idea of photographing the kids with a prop suggesting what they want to be when they grow up.
My first thought was: I’m pretty sure my kid has no notion of what he wants to be when he grows up.
The next morning, I polled the class.
At the first table, one kid said “Firefighter!” Three boys and one girl parroted him.
At another table, one girl squawked at me. Literally.
Another delivered a 15-second unintelligible monologue, from which I discerned “lion” and “zoo”.
Another girl replied, “Nothing.”
“But what kind of job would you like to have?” I clarified.
“Nothing. Like my mom. She does nothing.”
I suppressed a guffaw and continued.
The next girl said, “Policeman.” I gave her a high-five.
The next girl said, “Sleeping Beauty.”
Oh, shit. My son heard that.
“I want to be a princess, too!” he shouted.
I debated this for a few hours. I’m all about my son decorating his life from toe to tiara…at home. But I just couldn’t abide him being photographed for posterity in a cheap “Anna” dress holding a mini-chalkboard declaring “When I grow up I want to be a Princess”. I mean…yearbooks can haunt.
Walking home, that day, my son says, “Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be a princess!”
“That’s a great idea, buddy. But here’s the problem: we aren’t royalty. So you can’t be a princess unless you marry a princess. Or, I guess, a prince. And anyway, princesses live elsewhere. Like England. Where Thomas the Train and Peter Pan live.”
“And Princess Leia?”
And in a lamentable bout of verbal diarrhea, I continued: “But, buddy, you could be an actor, that way you can be lots of different people.”
“And then I can be a princess in a show!” he chirped.
My horror at this exchange is two-fold:
- In no way do I want my child to follow in my acting footsteps. There’s more stability in aspiring to be royalty.
- I just paved the way for my son to aspire to play “Jasmine” in Aladdin (or as he calls it: The Jasmine Show.)
But at least, for the purposes of the yearbook picture, I could write “actor” on the chalkboard and hand him princess-y props.
Folks, when that photo session occurred, that smile on his face…oh, it made me so happy. He was elation incarnate.
Afterward, he dropped his props and scrambled to every girl saying, “Do you want to be an actor or a princess? Rapunzel? Sleeping Beauty?”
To my horror, the girls changed their career-aspirations…because of my son.
The girl who wanted to be a police officer? Now a princess.
The firefighter? A fairy.
The squawking girl? No longer content to be a pterodactyl; she wanted to be a princess.
(The girl who wanted to do nothing…like her mother…became a super hero. Let’s assume that’s also how she sees her mother.)
I envisioned a battalion of angry West Village parents knocking down my door because my son had reversed the feminist movement.
I stopped him (too late) and forbade my kiddo from influencing the aspirations of the rest of the class. Everyone’s dreams were to be honored in the yearbook picture.
Which is advice I probably should’ve followed, myself. But still…
I have bigger fish to fry, now: steering my son away from acting and toward Any. Other. Field.