“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
It’s a question we are routinely asked as youngsters, with the more cliché responses ranging from “fireman” to “astronaut” to “explorer.”
Yet, as I’ve argued previously, we needn’t limit such contemplations to work outside of the home. As Karen Swallow Prior recently noted, using terminology from a Knot Yet study, family needn’t be viewed as a “capstone” to personal achievement, but should instead be seen as a “cornerstone” — an anchor and foundation from which those who are called to marry and have children will find increased fulfillment and vocational clarity, not less.
The other night, I was reading Richard Scarry’s The Bunny Book to my two toddlers, and I was struck by how clearly and effectively this same message was conveyed. The takeaway: When we think about work and vocation, we must also think about family.
The story begins with a daddy bunny tossing his baby in the air, asking that infamous question: “What will our baby be when he grows up?”
The book proceeds to query a host of other family members, each of whom have their own opinions about baby bunny’s future. Mother thinks he’ll be a policeman. Daddy thinks he’ll be a circus clown.
Cousin thinks he’ll be a doctor. Aunty thinks he’ll be a lifeguard.
Sister thinks he’ll be an airplane pilot. Great aunt bunny thinks he’ll be a fireman.
The story continues as such, with each hypothetical eventually stifled by a similar refrain: “But the baby bunny did not want to be a doctor or a lifeguard or a farmer (etc.).”
By the end, we discover the secret. He, too, will be a daddy rabbit, one who loves his children and meets their needs.
And let’s not forget books and birthdays.
The book concludes as the future daddy rabbit tucks his children into bed at night, providing an appropriate bookend. Though putting our children to bed may seem like a simple, nightly ritual — separate and distinct from our daily grind in the workplace — such a routine act aptly demonstrates the normative, formative impact that fatherhood has on all we do. For me, putting my kids to bed is a daily reminder of where responsibility ultimately rests and how value is ultimately defined.
Surely this bunny will be more than a daddy. All of that provision must, after all, come from somewhere. But this type of build-up and conclusion serves as a helpful illustration that, although the world around us may be telling us to achieve x, y, and z, many of us are called, first and foremost, to our families.