When I Grow Up

“When I grow up I’m going to be a police officer. But you won’t have to come and visit me because I’ll come home when it’s time for dinner.”

He pauses.

“But how will I know when dinner is ready?”

There’s only one clear answer here, and it has nothing to do with whether or not he will still live with us when he’s old enough to be a police officer.

“You could phone us…” I offer.

But no.

“Police officers don’t have phones!” he admonishes. (Moms are so silly.) “I’m not going to live at the police station.”

I get a glimpse of what he imagines for his grown-up life – the excitement of a career based on what he’s gleaned from LEGO videos and the hint of his small-boy brain imagining himself always living with mom and dad.

I suggest an alternative: “You could have a mobile phone like mine and like Daddy’s that you could take with you.”

I could explain about growing up and moving out, but I don’t want to burst the protective bubble of his imaginary adulthood. I don’t want to push away the world in which I get to be the mama to this little boy.

A mobile phone sounds like an acceptable option. He mumbles in agreement, but he’s not done thinking it through.

“Actually, I guess I’m going to have to live at the police station.”

He’s sitting behind me as I drive out to my parents’ place, where he’s going for a sleepover. I catch pieces of him in the rearview mirror – pensive eyes as he’s thinking, his hair framed by the top of his booster seat. Only pieces, but in this moment I see him clearly.

“Why’s that?” I ask.

“How else am I going to know when there are bad guys to catch?”

I follow his train of thought and picture him in a police uniform sitting by a phone waiting for the call.

Officer Connor, there’s a bad guy out there. You need to go get him.

“Is that how you’ll know there are bad guys out there? Someone will phone and tell you?”

Of course it is. He doesn’t question this as proper protocol; he has no reason to see my question as an indication that perhaps that might not be how it works.

I let it be, of course. He lives in a world where things will be as he imagines them, and I live in a world where I get to see beauty and innocence by not suggesting otherwise.



  1. ahh the joys of childhood and creating your own reality. I miss those days!

  2. This is so sweet! Those “when I grow up” conversations are my absolute favorite. My four year old always tries to figure out where everyone will sit in the minivan when she grows up. Last time she was going to buy her own (yellow striped) minivan, but then she realized someone would have to give my 3 month old her paci back when she drops it, so she figured she’ll stay in our car. It’s so cute how they imagine being a grown up but can’t imagine being without mom and dad.

  3. I love his imagination and his thinking!

  4. I like his world! Somehow magically our daughters are still in a world without bad guys, and I love knowing that Connor will be out there to protect them when they figure it out.

  5. I love the works through the eyes of my child

  6. HAHA. Adorable. My son also wants to “fight bad guys”. My best friend (his Auntie “Tee Tee”…he could never say Heather)is a RCMP officer. His head just about exploded when she got her uniform.
    We have a picture of her in our living room. He studies it and says that he’s going to work with her. Hilarious

  7. What a beautiful post Robin. Love it.

  8. Warren Peece says:

    Funny, when I was little I wanted to be a civil engineer that builds bridges. Maybe I should have played with Lego.

  9. Isn’t it powerful to see their minds working? Turning over new ideas, incorporating new experiences, making it into their own. It never ceases to amaze me.

  10. I love your last line. Sometimes the kids will say things about how they think life is and I think that both my husband and I correct them probably more than we should. Thanks for the reminder :-)

  11. I love seeing the world through the eyes of children, with all of their innocent hopes, dreams and plans. My son wants to be a teacher, and it makes me so happy to see how he is inspired by his own teacher right now. Great post; loved hearing about your little man. :)

  12. I love hearing my girls work things out in their heads. It’s so fun to see the wheels turning.

  13. If only we could all live in Lego worlds. Kids have such a beautiful picture of the world is. I wish more of us would hold onto to it as we grow.

  14. Robin, I loved this story! What a beautiful moment to capture. My son is starting to tell his own stories and create dialogue, and it’s fascinating.

  15. When they aren’t driving us crazy don’t they just say the most wonderful things! Yesterday my son told me when he grows up he will have three boys and they will like to ride on his back…just as he does with his dad :)

  16. I love watching the world through their eyes and imaginations. It makes my heart smile.

  17. This is so beautiful. I love living alongside children’s views of the world. And I love that you didn’t correct him. I wouldn’t have either.

  18. This is fun. I wouldn’t want to burst the beautiful bubble of that innocent mind either.

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