A few weeks ago my daughter and I had a serious conversation about what she will be when she grows up. My 5-year-old daughter, Nicole, wanted to pare down her options.
Currently, she is deciding between mother, artist, doctor and fairy. I’m really pushing for fairy, obviously. At one point during our chat, she turned to me with her super-serious face to say, “I just can’t decide. You do it. What do you want me to be?”
It was a simple question, but it struck me. When it comes down to it, I don’t care all that much what profession my daughter chooses. As much as I would love to be a mother to a real-life fairy doctor, my daughter’s career path is not the answer to the question, “What do you want me to be?”
So I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my daughter to be. Not vocations, but who I want her to become. That’s the real question lurking in the back of our minds every time we discipline our children, love them or envision their futures.
I did what I always do — I made a list. A long list. More than 50 things I want my daughter to be. The list ranged from qualities such as independent to educated to such seemingly trivial things as being friends with boys and well-traveled.
I want my daughter to be a million things. But in the end, the whole list came down to one simple concept: I want my daughter to be happy. So I wrote Nicole a letter to answer her question, “Mom, what do you want me to be?” Here’s what I came up with:
- Be Wise – You are already smart. But be wise. Be wise in the choices you make everyday. Choose good friends. Date boys worthy of you. Find a career that fulfills you with more than just a paycheck. Know your priorities, and make wise choices to cling to the things you value most.
- Be Kind – We live in a world where cruelty is seen as strength and kindness is weakness. Be kind despite those worldly voices. Feel compassion for those who suffer, and find ways to improve the lives that intersect your own. Be a friend. Offer an uplifting word. Find strength in kindness.
- Be a Believer – You know my testimony. Of course, I hope you share my beliefs because they are dear to me, and so are you. But if you don’t believe exactly as I do, at least believe in something — something greater than yourself. Acknowledge you are part of a bigger plan and a daughter of a Heavenly Father. Above all, believe in yourself. The world has plenty of doubters. Be a believer.
- Be Lighthearted – Laugh hard and often. Life can be difficult, but it can also be hilarious. So laugh at it. Laugh at yourself. Forgive others easily, and ask forgiveness when you err. Don’t harbor grudges or take offense. Don’t give away your joy so easily. Laugh things off and move on.
- Be Grateful – Most unhappiness in life comes from wanting things we don’t have. Instead, be grateful for what you do have. Be grateful for every blessing by recognizing that every good thing in your life is a gift — each sunrise, each obstacle and each person you meet. You’ll find you already have everything you could ever need, and how much happier you are when you give away even that.
And that’s the bottom line. I want you to be happy. No matter what career you choose or life you lead, be happy. Be so happy that people flock to you to feel your joy. You have brought so much joy to my life already in just five years. I already can’t imagine what my life was like without your smiling face and joyful heart. The world will be richer for it.
So in answer to your question, “What should I be?,” here’s my answer: Be happy. And if you are, then so am I.
What do you want your children to be?