I have been working recently with the psychological evaluations of children. A favorite technique of child psychologists in attempting to ascertain the problem area of the child is to inquire of the child, "If you had 3 wishes, what would you wish for?" How appropriate is the child's response, in relation to the child's age and background? What would this child change?
If a pre-pubescent child wishes for a relationship, something may be awry. If a child wishes for his parents to get back together, then the culprit is uncovered. If a child wishes for a bicycle, a playstation2, and a monkey, then everything is probably fine.
One child wished for $70,000, a car, and, after a moment of careful consideration, $70,000 again. One child wished for a boyfriend, a car, and a driver's license.
One child wished to be a grownup, to be "old, really really old." This boy's mother had been neglecting him and his 3 little sisters, and he had assumed the responsibility of feeding them and making sure they went to school, and all of this at the age of 10. This boy was overwhelmed. When asked how old he'd become, he answered 60 or 70,000 years old, "So I'd be really grownup. Then maybe I could play with the dinosaurs, if I were that old." His desire for maturity clashed openly with his reveling in the playfulness of childhood, clashed irresolvably. He wanted to play, but this impulse was overcome at times by the desire to meet the challenges with which he was faced in his daily life. The hyperactive state of childhood was not amenable to the responsibility required of him by the circumstances of his world.
When pressed for the other two wishes, he offers: "To be rich, and to set the genie free." Of course, there has been no mention of any genie up to that point. But the theme of bondage, of servitude, had already been well established. What a touching gesture of this overworked, weary child, to project an unhappy, enslaved genie onto the question, that he might free him as he himself would be freed.