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He would be what he wanted to be

I ask my sons what they want to be when they grow up. Over the years, their ever-changing answers have been as diverse as they are: Train-driver, police officer, artist, doctor, mime, paleontologist, computer animator, and cow.

None has said he wants the job of daddy. They want to have kids because they make wild claims that when they have kids, they’ll get donuts every Saturday. But they don’t perceive that being a father could be a career, a life-calling, enough.

It’s not like they don’t have a stellar example of Daddyhood at its best. My husband is engaged, playful, commands respect, works hard. He’s tender but maintains authority. With his words and actions, he tells the kids he loves them and loves being their father. It’s a job he wouldn’t trade for anything.

Leave it to a very old, very ahead-of-its-time Little Golden Book to promote fatherhood as a vocational choice. It’s called The Bunny Book, by Patsy Scarry, illustrated by Richard Scarry, first published in 1955. I read it as a young girl. My grandmother gave it to me and even then I recognized how extraordinary it was.

The baby bunny, a boy, is from a loving and large extended bunny family. They are fond of speculating what he will be when he grows up. He listens to all their theories. He quietly considers each before rejecting their ideas. He will not be a policeman, a circus clown, a pilot, a fireman, a train engineer, lion tamer, mailman, candy store owner, doctor, lifeguard, or farmer.

I love how Scarry describes him as his future is pondered.

He sat in his basket and smiled at his bunny family. He knew what he would be.

He nibbled on his carrot and looked wise. He knew what he wanted to be.

He shook his rattle and smiled. He would be what he wanted to be.

Not only will the baby bunny be a daddy rabbit, he’ll have lots of children—Seven, by my count, which he will tuck into quadruple bunk beds each night. The beds are stacked so high, baby bunny imagines having to stand on a stool to deposit his blue-clad babies under their cozy quilts.

I don’t want to explore the reasons boys don’t reply “a daddy” when asked what they want to be. Maybe they are conditioned from an early age to aim for the role of the provider. Or perhaps they sense it isn’t an option when everyone around them is pulling for NFL Quarterback or Chairman of the Fed.

I’m simply glad to share this book with my kids. A baby bunny finds fatherhood more exciting than lion-taming, more brave than fighting fires, more respected than being a doctor, more fun than owning a candy shop. I think if you ask most dads, they’d agree.

Fatherhood is the best job they’ll ever have. Happy Father’s Day.

10 comments to He would be what he wanted to be

  • I had that book and loved it – always wanted a bed like that!!! Actually always wanted a dad like that!!! Anyway I have a son who would love to be a “scientist”… and my hubs glowed with academic pride, and then he went on… so that he can stand in the road and watch the roadworks and hold “signs” all day long!!! I kid you not, life with a bunch of kids can have you reeling with laughter sometimes!!!

  • How totally sweet. I’ve never seen this book but I wish I’d had it when my boys were young.

  • julianne

    This was one of my husband’s favorite books as a child, and his sister gave a copy of it to us as a gift around when our first child, a daughter, was born. LOVE it! And so does our almost-four-year-old daughter. We look forward to our almost one-year-old son enjoying it as well.

    Really a fantastic book. It’s so rare to see the role of father promoted as a calling, the way the mother’s role is.

  • I’m not familiar with that book, but I’m going to look for it! I love Richard Scarry’s illustrations, and it sounds perfectly sweet.

  • I think I need to buy this book – so sweet! And, I love your writing, as always.

  • how have i missed this book? i will be looking for it now. so sweet.

  • I LOVED the post and shared in on FB. I will blog about it also. SO happy to see the role of DADDY portrayed as something to strive for. Being a father is SO much more that bringing home the bacon!

  • Gretchen

    I remember this book, too, and I remember loving it. Richard Scarry is probably my favorite children’s author/illustrator, even above Dr. Suess. My boys don’t love him quite as much, but they have a good appreciation for him. My childhood was probably 80% Richard Scarry and Fisher Price; I’ve made sure to include these ingredients in my own boys’ lives. I hope they are the better for it!

  • I’m pretty sure my heart swelled three times its normal size by the end of this post.

    I’m going to look for this book.

  • amy

    Nice post. What a cool book. I love finding ‘old’ books that have radical ideas not just for their time, but for ours, making me realize such ideas are not so radical after all.

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