No, honey, you can’t be anything you want to be. And that’s okay.

Feb 24, 2016

Photo credit: iStock

By Erica Reischer

When my son turned one, friends gifted him with an illustrated Snoopy the Dog book called “You Can Be Anything.” On page after page, this chirpy book shows Snoopy engaged in a variety of impressive professions: Sports Star, Surgeon, Flying Ace, and so on.

Dressed in the garb of his chosen occupation, Snoopy is pictured as a “world-famous lawyer,” a “world-famous literary ace,” and even a “world-famous grocery clerk.” Snoopy is superlative in everything he does.

The book was big and bright and colorful, and probably intended for an older child since the pages–instead of being thick and sturdy like board books–were made of regular paper.

When my son tried to turn these flimsy paper pages with his pudgy little hands, they inevitably ripped. Which delighted him, so he ripped them more. I let him. I even helped him sometimes.

You might think this permissiveness was due to a laid-back nature, or some lofty ideal of allowing my son’s curiosity (paper rips when I pull it!) to range free. You would be wrong.

The real reason I didn’t mind him ripping the pages of this book was because, as a psychologist and parent, I deeply object to its core message, which is succinctly stated on page one: “Just like Snoopy, what you can achieve is limited only by your imagination. You can be anything!”

This message—that our kids can do and achieve anything they put their minds to—can be deeply alluring to parents. What parent wouldn’t want to believe that their children’s achievement is limited only by imagination, and to encourage their kids to pursue ambitious goals, like becoming a surgeon or a tech company founder?

What could possibly be wrong with telling our kids they can be anything? Plenty.

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One comment on “No, honey, you can’t be anything you want to be. And that’s okay.”

  • I was told when younger that I wasn’t suited in any careers, that not to go beyond my lot, I am dyslexic, & yet today I enjoy reading, I became a chef, what I really wanted to do was be an economist, or political reporter.
    With our two boys ever since they were little we would ask them, what do you want to do as a job? we got a poo doctor or doctor, brother in law being a surgeon, a big truck driver, a man laying bluestones in a laneway, & sometimes I got a scientist, a pilot, as parents we have always said that yes you can study hard & accept that maybe you can’t do this, we have never given over to fantasy, but yes if you really want to do something, & are willing & ready to put in the hard yards then maybe….as I have heard that it is very normal for people to change their professions during their life times

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