Recently I saw a patient for his 7 year old well child check. He was in the office with his entire family for an evening appointment. My medical assistant got his weight, height, blood pressure, and completed his screening exams. In the hall, she mentioned to me that he said he was going to be a scientist when he grew up. She was charmed (clearly) and I was weak in the knees when I entered the exam room. I mean, endearing and sweet, robust and proactive, his dreams exceeded the typical 7 year old. I suppose I thought this partly because of my path in life (science-y and full of many years of science education). Of course there is nothing ultimately graded about dreaming to be a scientist when compared to dreaming to be an astronaut, a carpenter, a designer, a gardener, a botanist, an artist, or a teacher (this list goes on and on). What we want for children is far wider than their title–what we want is contentment and enjoyment in their career.  Most of us often love when people tell us they want to be “us” when they grow up. It’s affirming, right? One reason you have to be careful from whom you seek career advice. For most, it will often sound a lot like a transcript of what they have done. I’ve been thinking about this since the visit because of what happened next…

I entered the room and greeted his family. I sat down at the computer to show them his growth grid, blood pressure, hearing, and vision results. And although I don’t usually ask 7 year-olds what they are going to be when they grow up, I asked my patient. I mean I was putty after what I’d heard in the hall and I was looking for dessert– I wanted to hear it myself. I looked up from the computer, “My medical assistant told me you have big dreams about what you want to do when you grow up. What do you want to be?”

“I want to be a Dad.”

Nearly fell off my stool. Maybe because my question was redundant (and pointless) since I already knew the answer. But, then, it turned out, I didn’t. Redundancy was not an issue here.

I mean, this was a first for me. This 7 year old wants to be a Dad. It was just so endearing…There was a silence in the room after he spoke, the pride-infused smiles of his parents taking up all the bandwidth. I gobbled up his words, witnessed his priorities, and really lived into the moment. I had one of those beats in my day where I was just so genuinely thankful I get to do what I do.

I can only imagine that his parents enjoyed this, too.

Mothering is what I wanted to do when I grew up, too. But I don’t think I knew it. And because of the responses I got when stating my other ideas (architect, designer, actor, then doctor later on), I wouldn’t have thought to say it. I loved telling adults my big plans and getting support for my lofty dreams.

If he maintains these priorities as the days of time are dealt, others will witness true fortune. And if we can demonstrate to our children these priorities, maybe more of them will say the same thing. And just maybe we will figure out a way to support families who choose to put priorities in this order by providing flexible work schedules. We can dream…