When I was five, I knew three things:
- Digging under the wall of the playground sandbox does not create a super fun tunnel but rather a completely terrifying subterranean, medieval stockade;
- To get the best sound on your Daydream Believer 45, you have to tape a penny the top of the record player arm; and
- I was born to be a writer.
In just over a week, Aidan will turn five; a few weeks after that Isabel will be nine. I sometimes see glimpses of my childhood self in them, most often when they’re being outrageously annoying and I’m struggling to hold onto my belief that smacking kids is bad and talking reason at them – even if they just scream and run away – is good. Fortunately, the majority of the time their behavior is just fine, unquestionably better than the dog’s. Which, on the surface, doesn’t sound like I’m saying much, but when you consider that the dog is a formal (everyone got a certificate) obedience school (puppy preschool) graduate (but he was the instructor’s favorite), then you can see that this is actually a huge compliment.
And if nothing else, I can say that neither child has ever peed on the other. Which is more than I can say for certain people in my family of origin (coughcoughbrothercough).
Now that’s an experience that sticks with you.
Unfortunately, their good behavior also means that the times I see myself in them are few and far between and overall, Isabel and Aidan are mysteries to me. What are they thinking about? Why do they decide to do the things they do? I especially ask these questions of Aidan, the child for whom I’m certain the word “gobsmacked” was invented. He says and does things that I, in a million years, would never even think to say or do. And when I ask him, “Aidan, why did you put your glass in the toilet?” or, “Aidan, why are you licking your foot?” his explanations – that he heard me tell Isabel how tests have shown that most kitchen sinks are germier than toilets, and that his story book said cats are very clean, respectively – make so much sense that all I can do is shake my head. Gobsmacked.
So I wonder, have they learned the same life lessons I had, at their ages? Do they realize how deceptive head-sized holes are and how hard it is to free your shoulders from them? Or that at about the same time it becomes commonplace to rig technology with tape, something new will come along to empty your wallet and render your media collection obsolete?
What truths have they already discovered about themselves? Do they already know their life’s mission?
I asked them both the question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Aidan: “I want to be a skateboarder. And an iceboarder. And a singer. But mostly a skateboarder.”
Isabel: “WELL, RIGHT NOW I’M TRYING TO FIND A RUBBER BAND!”
She was borrowing my iPod. It’s possible that she had the volume up a touch too high.
Just by watching and getting to know them, I have a few ideas of my own about what they might do with their adult selves. Aidan, for instance, is fascinated by human physiology. He will happily spend hours looking at textbooks, or taking apart and putting together anatomy models. I often think that I may be witnessing the beginnings of a fine surgeon… or a serial killer. I’m really not quite sure which, and when he looks at me and asks, “Where does the blood come out?” it is both charming and disturbing. He is exceptionally charismatic so on either path, I suspect I will one day make my television debut with the words “Aidan’s mother” superimposed beneath my face.
Isabel, on the other hand, is always asking questions. For a long time I thought maybe she had the makings of a lawyer or journalist. As she’s gotten older, though, I notice her particular gift isn’t just in asking questions, but in asking very specific questions that further a very specific agenda that is known only to her. Until the moment that you spring the trap, that is. Then it all becomes very clear, as does the knowledge that you are too late to back out of the corner she’s put you in.
Isabel: “Did you see the dance I was making up, Mom?”
Me: “Oh, yes, it looked wonderful.”
Isabel: “So you were spying on me! What else do you spy on?”
Given this, and her recent fascination with all things celebrity, I’m putting my money on Isabel being her generation’s Jerry Springer. Which would be an awesome fit for Aidan’s future as either a physician or a modern day Jack the Ripper, seeing as how he should provide endless fodder to exploit for ratings.
I suppose only time will tell how closely my guesses will match up with what their adult selves are motivated to do. I think I’ll be happy for them no matter what path they follow, so long as they’re fortunate enough to find and hold a dream rather than just drift aimlessly.
Well, okay, so I wouldn’t be happy with the whole “serial killer” path. Let’s just hope for the best on that front.