Monday, 27 July 2009

future perfect

It is one of those irritating things that people do with babies - to predict their occupation.

These career forecasts are usually based on the flimsiest of evidence – he can hold a crayon; an artist! He likes aeroplanes; a pilot!

But I confess, I am the worst for this. I do it all the time and in that moment, I seriously consider whether this is the right direction for Snooks. At 16 months, I think he should be keeping his options open.

Perhaps it is all part of being a parent – the desire to find the perfect path and steer our young ones along it. But it’s a fool’s errand. Not to mention, deeply unfair on the child.

I try to keep this in mind as the image of Snooks on stage at the Albert Hall, bowing to an ecstatic audience, violin and bow in hand, swims before my eyes.

I mentioned this vision once to a friend who actually plays the violin and her response was “God don’t do that to him – make him into the nerd who carries a violin to school every day.”

Then I worried about the dangers of celebrity – the treatment by the press, the detachment from the real world, the awful come down when the star fades - and decided it would be better to be unsung, quietly excelling at something, out of the public eye.

After watching a programme about some guys who followed some fish around the Pacific Ocean for three months waiting for the right moment to film them, I started leaning towards marine biologist – so long as he came home once in a while to see his mama.

Passing strangers also feel free to tell Snooks’ fortune, a number of whom have taken one look at him and announced he is bound for the silver screen. Glossy golden locks and a well-timed smile seem to qualify him for the role.

Another favourite is professional footballer. This probably tops the poll of vox pop forecasts. One woman even went so far as to remark, “Well that’s your pension sorted,” as she watched Snooks dribble her son’s ball across the park.

Snooks’ Godmother, a teacher of many years standing, often bemoans the fact that the many wannabe Beckhams who pass through her hands year after year, could have made very good foremen, had their expectations been a little more realistically managed.

Lucky for Snooks then, that he has parents barely able to name two members of the England team.

And also lucky for him that if you can inherit a sporty gene, it seems you can also carry a desire to know how everything works in your blood – in other words, be a born engineer.

His father, The Engineer, and I discussed whether he could have inherited such a leaning after watching Snooks examine the wheel-base of every buggy he came across, long before he could walk.

Or could we have inadvertently encouraged his technophilia? He did, after all, watch Megastructures once or twice in the first few weeks of his life, when we had all given up on the idea of sleep during the hours of darkness.

More recently he has developed a fascination for motorbikes, something I can definitely say I have not encouraged, having witnessed my mother’s face when my older brother was out late at night on his.

Our journeys to Snooks’ weekly engagements now involve zigzagging across the road to admire parked vehicles of interest on either side. And no, he does not look at the shiny paintwork or the nice leather seat (which are the bits that interest me). I watch his gaze fall lovingly over the cylinders and gearbox, drinking it all in.

Last week, when we finally made it to the local leisure centre’s Toddler Gym, a fabulous space for wheeling hoops and climbing on foam shapes under the supervision of a lovely lady called Alison, I spent half of the morning retrieving Snooks from behind the bouncy castle where he was examining the machinery used to inflate it.

It got worse at the end of the session when Alison gathered us all round for a sing song - all bar Snooks who now wanted to stand on the deflated castle and be told exactly where it had gone.

“He’s going to be an engineer," Alison muttered as we left.

I don’t mind what he does so long as he is happy.

And I finally realise that my parents really did mean that when they said it, all those years ago.

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