Thank you, Tina Fey
My daughter is already talking about what she wants to be when she grows up
One night not long after we brought our daughter home from the hospital, my wife and I were dreaming about her future.
We talked about what kind of person she might be one day and what she might accomplish. It was probably the kind of thing most parents ponder when they're in that new, unfamiliar world of having to be responsible for a new life.
By the end of the conversation I settled for “sleeping a little more.”
We certainly weren't planning anything for her, just wondering what lay in store for our growing family. She was so new that I still called watching her “babysitting” not “parenting.” But over time we settled into our roles. As her dad, I'd return to those thoughts now and then: Maybe she'll be a doctor or invent something or not be a lawyer.
Eventually, she started to answer for herself: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
At first the answer was “a dog.”
It took a little while to convince her that wasn't possible. She made the natural progression, then, when one day she said, “I want to be a veterinarian.”
She asked me what I thought, and I said that would be great. Well, great for someone who's not allergic to every species of fur-bearing animal on the planet. So we learned she couldn't be a dog, and she probably couldn't fix a dog. At least not without wheezing a lot.
About a year ago she decided she'd be an orthodontist, thanks to her own orthodontist who was had as much empathy as expertise. That would be great, too, I told her.
And then I did three things that may have altered her future. They seemed unconnected at first, but looking back it was a perfect storm of unintended influence. First, I let her watch Saturday Night Live one night. It was a re-run, edited for earlier hours. Then she started staying up a little later on Thursday nights and catching a show called “30 Rock.” Finally, I showed her the cover to a book I had called “Bossypants.”
It all came together one day when we were driving by the site of a new animal hospital in Hampstead.
“Maybe you can work there when you're in high school,” my wife said, making conversation.
“Mama, you can't decide what I'm going to be,” my daughter said pointedly yet completely respectfully. “I'm going to decide that.”
And then she followed it up with a pronouncement.
“I'm going to be a comedy writer just like Tina Fey.”
The same Tina Fey who performed and wrote on “SNL” and “30 Rock” and wrote “Bossypants.” Evidently, my work here was done.
Dog, vet, orthodontist, comedy writer – the truth is, I don't really care what she wants to do when she grows up – as long as she has a happy life. But I guess that's the trick.
This idea might go the way of wanting to be a dog – after all, she's just a little girl and there's a lot of school, life and experiences that are likely to influence her in unimaginable ways. But there have been two constants the past
few years: she loves to write and she loves making people laugh. So far, I think that's plenty.
Bill Burke is a writer who lives in southern New Hampshire with his wife and surprisingly funny daughter.