When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? At about the age of four, I decided that I wanted to be Superman. My Mum fully supported me, sewing a red cape onto the back of an old blue sweatshirt and big golden “S” on the front. My Dad, the realist, was less accommodating however, and refused to take me anywhere while I was still wearing my Y fronts outside of my trousers. After an embarrassing couple of weeks though, I realised that I couldn’t be my hero. It wasn’t that I couldn’t fly or that I couldn’t make laser beams come out of my eyes. No, my hair was the wrong colour. In later years this prevented me from being Han Solo and instead I had to be Luke Skywalker.
There is a legend in my family, which I will neither confirm nor deny that around this time I developed an interest in the arts, or more specifically, decided that I was going to be a ballerina. Apparently my Dad was (understandably) horrified and could be heard darkly muttering things like “No son of mine!” to himself. Fortunately for him, I changed my mind again, this time wanting to be a hairdresser.
Now that I’m the Dad, the question of our children’s future has become a hot topic of conversation between us parents.
My eldest son, is obsessed with tools and tries to fix anything which looks broken, and a good many things which look like they need to be. My wife and I have tried to get him to play with toy drills and screwdrivers, but these just don’t cut the mustard. If it isn’t real metal and doesn’t have at least one sharp edge with which to disfigure himself, he just isn’t interested. He’s actually pretty good too and one of his nicknames is “Mr Fix-it”. We’re fairly sure that he will end up doing something practical; a mechanic, a plumber, or an electrician. Maybe a builder or perhaps a mechanical engineer: and so I want to try to give him opportunities to hone that interest.
The trouble is, when it comes to DIY and all other practical pastimes, I am a one man catastrophe, but I know several men who know their mole grips from their tin snips. So as Boy-Boy gets older I’ll ask them if we can “help” them and maybe this will stir an interest in him.
My daughter already has very clear ideas about what she wants to be. Like most little girls she wanted to be a fairy or a princess (a bit like her Dad then) but she’s recently changed her tune. About six months ago she announced to us that she wanted to be an ambulance. Yes you read that correctly, not an ambulance driver or a paramedic. She wanted to be an actual ambulance. I was going to explain to her that as she isn’t a van, she’s at a bit of a disadvantage but then I remembered my Mum’s example. All too soon she’d find out for herself that this particular dream wasn’t going to reach fruition, and I didn’t want to be the one to crush that brightly burning ember in her.
As luck would have it, being an emergency vehicle seems to have lost its allure. Last weekend, we went to the Zoo with my sister. We’d been walking between enclosures with rhinos, giraffes, ostriches and zebras, but the favourite of the day was the cotton top tamarins, tiny little monkeys which would sit snugly in the palm of my hand. In amongst all of these incredible creatures, my sister asked Fraboo what her ambition is. She was expecting an answer like a zoo keeper, or a vet. What she wasn’t expecting her to say was “I want to be a wrestler!”
This is a curious choice of career for my little girl for many reasons, but two which spring immediately to mind are:
- The only wrestling she’s ever seen has been the UWL (Underwear Wrestling League) where she, Boy-Boy and Daddy tumble around in the living room with much hilarity.
- Fraboo makes Kate Moss look morbidly obese.
If that makes her happy though, I will support her. The chances are that she will have changed her mind several times before she joins the workforce. If not I’ll take her to the gym, volunteer to referee, and drive her the length and breadth of the country to title matches and I’ll be ringside to cheer her on (and to make sure no one hurts my princess), because if she finds happiness in that, then I can be happy for her.
I often look enviously at some of my school mates and the success that they’ve achieved and berate myself for not working harder at school. Yet I wouldn’t swap my life for theirs. Success needn’t be an enormous salary and a lovely home. That is only one measure of achievement. I look at my kids and I know that I’m doing alright.