"Do you know what I want to be when I grow up, Daddy?"
"I am so proud of my little girl. You want to be a doctor? Or maybe a medical researcher?"
"Don't be silly, Daddy. I want to be a reality-TV star."
"I have it all figured out. First, I'll make a sex tape with my boyfriend –– preferably a professional athlete –– and then I'll make sure somebody steals it and makes it public."
"A WHAT kind of tape?"
"I'll pretend to be embarrassed, of course. That will help me win a multimillion-dollar settlement –– and the ensuing publicity will launch my reality-TV career."
"But, honey, what about your mother?"
"Not to worry, Daddy. Mom will be involved. I'll get the whole family involved. After all, I need bit players to create conflict and good drama. You'll play the role of a prudish father."
"But I AM a prudish father!"
"Oh, Daddy, you need to get with the times. America is much different than it was when you grew up. In the old days, people had to work boring jobs and produce some tangible value to get paid. Now all we need to do is be pretty and famous."
"But your mother and I don't want a camera crew following us around in our home. We don't want our private lives broadcast for the world to see."
"You are such a fuddy-duddy, Daddy. Look, most of our show will be fake anyhow. We'll make up family problems and pretend to solve them. It's like acting."
"But it is NOT acting. Real actors are committed to their craft, and study for years to evoke emotions and truths that help others better understand humanity."
"You are SO 1970s, Daddy. In the modern era, all you need to do is present a made-up story that captures people's attention and the ratings will soar. Then you get to hobnob with rich and famous people, live in big houses, drive nice cars and wear expensive clothes."
"But I want my daughter to have wealth of spirit, not of material things!"
"You'll change your mind once our brand is established. The endorsements will roll in. We'll be rich beyond belief."
"Honey, do you remember where your mother hid the bourbon?"
"I'll get an offer to do a spread in Playboy and meet lots more professional athletes hanging out at Hef's mansion. I'll marry one, too. Our multimillion-dollar wedding will be broadcast for all the world to see!"
"But your wedding should be a private affair for your family and closest friends! Privacy is a precious, wonderful thing."
"I know what you're thinking, Daddy: that the obsession with wealth and fame among America's young people is a troubling turn of events. Fewer kids want to study to be doctors or engineers. They want to be rich and famous and superficial –– just like the reality-TV stars."
"That's right, honey. Your mother and I want you to find meaning and purpose in life. We want you to be a good citizen. We want you to find a career that helps others. We want you to have a family and know deep, lasting love and happiness –– not just superficial wealth and fame."
"Oh, Daddy, I can't help that that is what I want to be when I grow up. It's what lots of young Americans want nowadays. You're going to have to get used to it."
"But, but —"
"But what, Daddy?"
"But you're only 5!"
Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively Cagle Cartoons ne.