Yesterday was supposed to be a lot more productive than it was –– but I got Ruby’s school pictures back and spent more time than is probably healthy just staring at them, wondering when in the hell she got so big.

She’s going to be 4 in December, which just seems impossible, especially because a part of my brain still thinks I’m 22, and my actual maturity level is probably closer to 13.

Ruby clearly doesn’t disagree. “What do you want to be when you grow up, Mom?” she keeps asking me. And no matter how many times I tell her that I am grown up and I already have a job, she laughs and says, “No, Mom, I said, ‘When you grow up’!!!”

Ruby wants to be a million things when she grows up: Cinderella, a ballerina, a doctor, a “tiger-ographer,” an artist, a mermaid, and as I look at her pictures, I can imagine her doing any or all of those things. She’s a creative and lively kid, full of energy and ideas and ambitions.

I, on the other hand, was pretty boring at her age: I have known exactly what I wanted to be since I was just a little bit older than Ruby.

On my refrigerator is a photocopy of a letter I sent to Jack and Jill magazine when I was 7 years old. I was upset because, I wrote, “on page 48 of your magazine, in the section ‘Poems by Our Readers,’ the poem ‘Rain’ appears. This poem is by Shel Silverstein; it is in Where the Sidewalk Ends. I am concerned about this because I have written a poem, and I would not want anyone to steal it and get credit.” Underlying my polite handwritten letter was the clear implication: Your editors should have caught this!

I have always been a know-it-all; I have always been a pain in the ass about being right. I love language, and I love rules, and as soon as I realized that there was a way to combine these two things into a career, I was off and running. I edited my high school newspaper, I edited an international magazine in college, I taught editing in graduate school, and then I edited a variety of publications once I was done with school. And now I’m here. In some ways, I’m glad I was so focused; in others, it’s depressing to realize that –– except for a three-year stint at Baskin-Robbins that gave me the ability to make really ugly ice cream cakes and really great chocolate sodas –– I have no other skills.

So when my future mermaid-ballerina-princess demands to know what I’m going to be when I grow up,  I explain to her, again, that I am an editor, I want to be an editor, I have always wanted to be an editor. And when that answer didn’t satisfy her, I offered the only other thing I ever wanted to be: “A mom.”

Ruby considered that one for a while. And then she accepted it. “Good choice, Mommy.”

And it is.

What about you? Have you always known what you wanted to do? Or are you still bitter about not being a mermaid?