Country Roads… What do you want to be when you grow up?
If you want to strike up a conversation with a kindergartener just ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Most 5 and 6-year-olds will slip their imaginations into high gear and lead you on a fascinating journey into the future.
Kindergarten is that wonderful time before children have to come to grips with reality or, worse yet, before they are pigeon-holed by well-meaning adults who remind them that their goals are unrealistic.
Kindergarteners, for instance, can usually list three or four things they would like to be or do when they grow up. Fifteen years later as college students they may have difficulty defining their career goals.
Can you remember what you, as a 5-year-old, wanted to be when you grew up? I’m not sure that I can.
I do recall playing school with my younger brothers; maybe I wanted to be a teacher. Early on I learned one of the many pitfalls of being an educator. I made a worksheet for my “student,” labeling it as such and hanging it on a wall. Unfortunately, I spelled “worksheet” with an “i” instead of “ee.”
Mom discovered that worksheet on the living room wall and reminded me how to spell worksheet. Funny thing – I remember her smiling when she ordered me to take down the worksheet.
At about age eight, I recall, I wanted to be a minister. I made my little brothers sit on chairs in the living room and used one of Mom’s plant stands as a pulpit. I read from the Bible and preached a brief sermon.
I don’t recall the subject of my homilies. I suspect they dealt with the major moral concerns of the day such as the evil of teasing one’s oldest brother, the joy of sharing toys with one’s oldest brother or the virtue of respect for one’s oldest brother.
A few years passed with no eye toward the future; life was a whirlwind of baseball, bicycles and beating on little brothers. When I was about 11-years-old, however, I thought I would like to be a highway patrolman.
I could imagine cruising down Highway 69 in a sleek, black 1959 Dodge with a single cherry on top, a yellow IHP sticker on each of the front doors and a long whip antenna at the back of the cruiser. With a pistol on my hip and a shiny badge on my chest I would return our highways to the peaceful, law-abiding citizens of our state, sending violators to the state pen for life.
An Iowa State Highway patrolman and his family lived up the street from us. One summer afternoon I rode my bike past his house and down our street at breakneck speed. As I rolled into our front yard, the highway patrolman’s son ran into my path. Other than grass stains and bruises neither of us was badly injured but I knew my plans for serving on the state highway patrol were ended. In fact, I worried for weeks that a highway patrolman could send a speeding bicyclist to the pen or at least to reform school.
A sixth grade teacher helped me understand that writing could be fun and little-by-little I began leaning toward a career that would involve a typewriter (Word processors hadn’t been invented yet). An interest in broadcasting wove itself into the picture, too.
The appeal of a news career was strong enough to resist the efforts of two well-intentioned older gentlemen who cornered me in church one Sunday and encouraged me to go into the ministry. I guess I talked a lot as a teenager and they incorrectly equated quantity (and volume) of speech with quality.
In light of my failure as an 8-year-old to get my brothers to quit teasing or to share their toys I doubt my effectiveness as a minister.
Time marched on and after spending the first several years of my career in broadcasting, then the newspaper industry and finally in a fundraising career I am now happily retired. Back in the early 70s I even had an opportunity to serve on a police reserve. Along the way I’ve also had an opportunity to be a sales and ad design trainer and to teach in Sunday school and church.
Now if I could just grow up.